WGBH must oust Koch from board, 2 reps say

Lawmakers: climate change deniers not welcome

Charles and David Koch, owners of Koch Industries, are two of the richest and most influential men in America. Koch Industries, the entity from which the Koch brothers have gained their vast wealth, is a multinational conglomerate whose core industry is the refining and distribution of fossil fuels. Of late, the Kochs have come under fire for their donations and political contributions to conservative causes, most notably climate change denial. The Kochs, as individuals whose vast wealth and influence derives from the sale of fossil fuels, undoubtedly have a stake in perpetuating climate change denial and continuing the advance of fossil fuel use. While it is no secret that Koch Industries funds climate change denial, it may come as a surprise to know that David Koch continues to serve on the Board of Trustees and the Science Visiting Council at the PBS Boston affiliate, WGBH.

PBS has a long history of being “America’s largest classroom.” Given the PBS mission to support and advance public education, David Koch’s board membership is concerning. PBS clearly states that it prohibits editorial control and funding by donors with political or financial interest in the affiliates they oversee. The network also has official rules barring commercial interests from the programming process, and even declares that a “perception test … [is] applied most vigorously to current affairs programs and programs that address controversial issues.”

For PBS to avoid conflicts of interest and promote nonpartisanship and education, it must remove David Koch from the WGBH board.

Those who support Koch’s presence on the board say there is little to no evidence that Koch funds climate change denial. They also say concerns about his WGBH board membership are merely speculative.

In 2010, Koch Industries spokeswoman Melissa Cohlmia claimed the conglomerate “support[s] open, science-based dialogue about climate change and the likely effects of proposed energy policies on the global economy.” Yet Koch continues to donate money to front groups that promote climate denial and prevent action against climate change. These groups undermine the prevailing scientific evidence that human beings are contributing to climate change.

The largest rally for action against climate change, The People’s Climate March, took place just a week ago. An estimated 400,000 people gathered in New York alone, and countless others rallied in cities across the globe, but this event received nowhere near the amount of press it deserved. This appears to us to be a result of media outlets becoming more beholden to contributors than to serving the people who watch, listen to, or read their product.

Climate change is not political opinion, but rather scientific fact. It is a defining issue of our time and the sooner we act the more we can do to lessen its effects. There should not be a seat at WGBH’s board table for any person who is actively and intentionally engaged in misinforming the public on climate change. David Koch’s participation and presence on the board contradicts the principles of one of the nation’s largest public television affiliates.

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Meet the Author
It’s been a year since Forecast the Facts first delivered more than 120,000 signatures on behalf of concerned PBS viewers who have demanded Koch’s removal from the WGBH board. Today, hundreds of thousands of people have joined the call. WGBH can no longer ignore the demands of their viewers. In order to continue its commitment to “[f]oster an informed and active citizenry,” WGBH must end its relationship with Mr. Koch.

Paul Heroux is the Democratic state representative from Attleboro and Frank Smizik is the House chair of the Legislature’s Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change. He is a Democrat from Brookline.