NEW YORK - PBS said Wednesday it has hired veteran journalist Michael Getler as an ombudsman to examine network content issues and stay in contact with viewers who are concerned about what is being aired.
Getler, a former executive editor of the International Herald Tribune and longtime journalist at The Washington Post, is finishing a stint as the Post's ombudsman.
PBS President Pat Mitchell said establishing the position has been in the works for more than a year. National Public Radio's success in having an outsider comment on content was an inspiration.
All aspects of PBS programming - news, documentaries and fiction - will fall under his purview, she said, and Getler will report to her.
Mitchell said she believed the public should have "someone to whom they could write and ask questions."
Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, said he was troubled that PBS was adding an ombudsman in response to political pressure from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. He said Getler must understand PBS' mandate to air material not normally seen on commercial television.
Mitchell denied any pressure was involved.
"There's nothing to it, but I understand why people will say it," Mitchell said. "It makes for a better story. The need for an ombudsman was identified separately from and before there was any criticism from the CPB."