Reports were circulating in public TV circles this weekend that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has pulled back -- at least temporarily -- a controversial proposal to survey for two years the content of PBS public affairs documentaries for "bias" . . .
CPB board member Richard Brookhiser, who as head of the board's missions and goals committee first broached the idea in May, has informed CPB President Martin Rubenstein that he has asked the CPB staff to refrain from sending out bidding proposals for the estimated $180,000 project at this time . . .
Currently, the CPB board has only five members, and the White House has not been in any hurry to send nominations for the other five positions to the Senate . . .
Brookhiser, a Republican board member and a senior editor of National Review, reportedly has decided not to bring his proposal before the board until it has a larger membership . . .
Rubenstein, who is not a member of the CPB board, said Friday that "in the light of the fact the proposal generated unanticipated controversy, he wants to get as much guidance as possible from his colleagues" . . .
The proposal was first scheduled to be discussed at a June CPB board meeting but a delay until the September meeting was subsequently agreed to . . .
Since the idea was first made public, PBS executives have criticized the proposal . . .
Friday, on hearing of Brookhiser's action, PBS President Bruce Christensen said "that's terrific" . . .
"I'm happy that they're willing to go back to examine the implications. It's been our view that CPB is the inappropriate agency to look at program content. Hopefully, they'll come to the same conclusion we have: There are already adequate checks and balances at PBS. We'll be glad to discuss them with CPB -- but a 'content analysis' is not the way to do it" . . .
Twice in recent weeks, the powerful chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), who also chairs a subcommittee with oversight of CPB, has written to CPB requesting further information about the proposed "content analysis," which, insiders say, contained a clear message that the quasi-governmental agency should think it over . . .
Some Republican members of the House telecommunications subcommittee, however, are reportedly preparing a letter urging Brookhiser to pursue the project . . .
CPB was created in 1967 to funnel federal funds to public TV and radio stations and to act as a "buffer" between the public stations and any political pressures from Congress, which votes on the funds . . .
During the first Nixon administration, an unsuccessful attempt was made by the Nixon-appointee-dominated CPB board to limit public affairs programs to a small percentage of total PBS programming, memories of which still haunt public broadcasters . . .
As originally proposed by media researcher S. Robert Lichter, the "content analysis" would have been "a straightforward scientific study" to determine if, as some critics have charged, PBS documentaries were sometimes biased . . .
But broadcasters saw it as a possible attempt to influence programming. Later, Brookhiser proposed to have competitive bidding on the project, despite Dingell's suggestion board members reconsider the proposal before that step . . .
On another front, CPB and PBS have reached a settlement in a potentially damaging argument over copyright ownership and editorial control issues regarding programs for which CPB provides major funding . . .
Some contracts with producers had been held up pending resolution of the argument . . .
CPB, which does not produce programs, had originally proposed that it share joint ownership of programs produced by the Annenberg-CPB project, a consortium that produces college credit courses for TV . . . Opponents saw it as a possible grab for program control in other areas . . .
Friday, PBS President Christensen said a settlement had been reached . . .
"We've reached agreement on editorial control issues and copyright questions that were raised with respect to various Annenberg Fund projects . . .
"There is no intent by CPB to hold copyright in anything else related to broadcast programs. CPB will not hold a copyright and certifies that they aren't exerting any editorial control over programs funded by Annenberg" . . .
Christensen, who negotiated the settlement with CPB President Rubenstein, said Friday that "Marty has done a terrific job" . . .
Also in the News
"ABC World News Tonight With Peter Jennings" will have a brand new on-air set in September when the program moves to ABC News' new building in Manhattan next door to the old facility at 7 W. 66th St. . . .
Another casualty on the list of 70 CBS News employes who were dismissed Thursday: Heywood Hale Broun, whose gaudy sports coats and bright prose have been staples on CBS for years -- and who won Emmys for the network in 1969-70 and again in 1975-76 . . . He had contributed to "Sunday Morning" on a free-lance basis in recent years. CBS News first denied Thursday that he was included on the "hit list" . . .
ABC Entertainment is considering using both talk show veteran Dick Cavett and journalist Jimmy Breslin as hosts for one-hour late-night programs this fall following "Nightline" . . .
Each would host two nights on a Tuesday-through-Friday schedule, Monday night being devoted to late-finishing NFL football . . . Cavett is winding up a stint as a talk show host on the USA Network . . .
More cast additions to the "Life With Lucy" sitcom coming this fall on ABC . . . in which Lucille Ball plays a recently widowed "free-spirited grandmother" who moves in with her married daughter, son-in-law, two grandchildren and their grandfather Gale Gordon, a recent widower and hardware business partner of Lucy's dead husband (Whew! That's a storyline-full!) . . .
Ann Dusenberry plays the daughter, married to Larry Anderson. Children are Jenny Lewis and Philip Amelio. In addition, Donovan Scott plays an employe at the hardware store.
Hammer Sans Bimbos
Jay Bernstein, executive producer of "The New Mike Hammer," which returns to CBS this fall, admits "I was the worst perpetrator of the old sexist stereotypes and now I'm apologizing and I'm going to go overboard the other way" . . .
Promising "no more bimbos," Bernstein says that from now on he's going to make sure that "50 percent" of all the roles "of substance" on "Hammer" will be women -- women lawyers, women medical examiners, etc. . . .
Bernstein says that in primetime TV on most series the ratio is 80 percent men -- his goal is 50-50 . . .
Bernstein arrived at this decision, he says, after 70 percent of mail to CBS supporting the series came from women, "so I'm going to pay them back" . . .
"This is going to be a role model show for women, with more women in major roles on this show than has ever been done in TV. I'm going to help womens' roles in society with this show . . .
Mike, played by Stacy Keach, will still have a sex life on the show this season, however, Bernstein guaranteed . . .