A pair of senior Democratic lawmakers called for a probe into allegations that the top management at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is pressuring PBS to take a conservative slant.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (The Hollywood Reporter) -- A pair of senior Democratic lawmakers called for a probe into allegations that the top management at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is pressuring PBS to take a conservative slant.

In a letter mailed May 11, Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., and Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., ask the CPB's inspector general to open an investigation related to the activities of CPB president Kenneth Tomlinson.

Obey, the House Committee on Appropriations' senior Democrat, and Dingell, ranking member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, requested that CPB inspector general Kenneth A. Konz investigate whether the CPB is violating the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. The law prohibits interference by federal officials over the content and distribution of public programming and forbids "political or other tests" from being used in CPB hiring decisions.

According to reports published in the New York Times and elsewhere, Tomlinson contracted last year with an outside consultant to keep track of the guests' political leanings on one program, "Now With Bill Moyers."

In late March, on the recommendation of administration officials, Tomlinson hired the director of the White House Office of Global Communications as a senior staff member, the Times quoted corporation officials as saying. While she was still on the White House staff, she helped draft guidelines governing the work of two ombudsmen whom the corporation recently had appointed to review the content of public radio and television broadcasts.

Tomlinson also is reported to have encouraged corporation and public broadcasting officials to broadcast "The Journal Editorial Report," whose host, Paul Gigot, is editor of the conservative editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. Additionally, though a search firm has been retained to find a successor for Kathleen Cox -- the corporation's president and chief executive, whose contract was not renewed last month -- Tomlinson has made clear to the board that his choice is Patricia Harrison, a former co-chairwoman of the Republican National Committee who is now an assistant secretary of state.

"CPB's own research has shown that the American public believes public television and radio programming is objective and balanced," the lawmakers wrote. "If CPB is moving in the direction of censorship of public affairs content based on partisanship and political views, this will severely erode the public trust that public broadcasting heretofore has enjoyed."

PBS officials say that the local station programmers make the bulk of programming decisions and pointed out that much of the programming in question is optional programming for PBS stations nationwide.

CPB officials could not be reached for comment.