WASHINGTON - The Corporation for Public Broadcasting's top television executive has resigned after three years to return to independent film producing.
The latest top-level departure comes as the corporation, set up by Congress in 1967 to finance public broadcasting while shielding it from political influence, is roiled by controversy over efforts by top executives to put more conservatives on public television and radio.
Michael Pack, senior vice president of television programming, stepped down in order to exercise his long-standing option with CPB to produce "Winning Modern Wars," a film he set aside when he joined CPB in February 2003, the corporation announced Thursday.
Before joining CPB, Pack had produced some shows for public television hosted by leading conservatives.
CPB president and CEO Patricia Harrison, a former co-chair of the Republican National Committee, praised Pack's work and said his legacy "will ultimately be two innovative, groundbreaking CPB projects."
The first, "America at a Crossroads," is a planned series of documentaries about changes in America and the world since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The other project is an effort to address critical gaps in middle and high school students' knowledge of American history and civics. CPB has received 89 proposals for funding, including more than 40 from public television stations, many in partnership with technology companies or education institutions.
"I was given the mandate to restructure the TV programming department, make CPB more proactive in program development and launch major new initiatives in public affairs and education, which I am happy to have accomplished during my time at CPB," Pack said.
Before joining CBP, Pack produced a number of shows nationally broadcast on PBS, including "God and the Inner City," narrated by Phylicia Rashad; "Inside the Republican Revolution: The First Hundred Days," hosted by Don Lambro; "Hollywood vs. Religion," hosted by Michael Medved; and "Hollywood's Favorite Heavy: Businessmen on Prime Time TV," hosted by Eli Wallach. Lambro and Medved are leading conservative figures.
Last spring, Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., and Rep. David Obey, D-Wis. asked CPB Inspector General Kenneth Konz to investigate the hiring of Pack, who they said, citing a New Yorker article, "was named a few weeks after he represented Lynne Cheney, the Vice President's wife, in a meeting with PBS to request a series of programs on which Mrs. Cheney would appear."
Last fall, Konz reported that Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, a Republican and former CPB chairman, interfered with PBS programming and appeared to employ "political tests" in the hiring of Harrison as the corporation's new president.
Tomlinson resigned as chairman in September and left the board in November after Konz privately shared his findings with the board.