Carlson’s father once ran the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

NEW YORK (AP) – PBS, frequently in the crossfire for a perception that it leans left, has hired conservative commentator Tucker Carlson as host of a weekly public affairs program.

Carlson’s untitled program, to be produced by WETA-TV in Washington, is expected to launch next June.

PBS also announced Monday that it would air David Frost’s interview with President Bush, being conducted this week before the president’s trip to the United Kingdom, next Sunday on its stations.

Carlson, the bowtied commentator who will keep his job on CNN’s “Crossfire,” said he’s aiming for something more compelling than the “eat your peas” television of most public affairs shows.

He’d also like to get beyond the few dozen Washington officials that are regulars on political talk shows, he said.

“The standards are going to be pretty clear – tell me something I don’t know and no lying,” he said. “They’re simple, but you rarely see that on TV, so it’s harder than it sounds.”

Since it depends to a large extent on public funding, PBS has long been a target of groups concerned with a liberal bias in the media.

The criticism became louder after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when PBS launched a weekly newsmagazine with Bill Moyers.

Moyers, a former official in the Lyndon Johnson administration, angered some conservatives with his commentaries.

“Moyers is the chief volcano of outrage over there,” said Tim Graham, an analyst at the conservative watchdog group Media Research Center. He said he sensed PBS has been made defensive by that criticism.

Robert Coonrod, president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, said he had been concerned that some of Moyers’ work had crossed the line between reporting and advocacy and had expressed that to Pat Mitchell, PBS president. The CPB is one of the PBS system’s chief funders, providing $22.5 million to the system for programming.

“I think we should have more perspectives on public television than we have now,” Coonrod said. “We have to put it into the context of good programming.”

Coonrod said the CPB is likely to provide seed money to help start Carlson’s show. The organization does not fund “Now with Bill Moyers.”

Mitchell, who was not immediately available for comment, has been trying to beef up PBS’ public affairs programming since she started her job in 2001, a spokeswoman said. She believes in creating an informed citizenry through a diversity of voices, spokeswoman Lee Sloan said.

Carlson, whose father once ran the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, is aware of the perception that PBS is liberal but said he didn’t know enough about the system to know whether he’s being brought in for political balance.

While Graham said he was pleased that Carlson would have a show, most conservatives believe that PBS could have done better.

“If you took a poll of conservatives and said, which of the following would you like to have a PBS show, he wouldn’t be in the top three or four,” Graham said. “Maybe he’s what PBS wants. He’s not a red-meat thrower.”

Carlson responded to Graham’s criticisms with an expletive.

“I’ve heard that before,” he said. “Maybe it’s because things amuse rather than enrage me most of the time.”

AP-ES-11-10-03 1611EST

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