The Broadcasting Board of Governors today expressed its condolences on the loss of Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, and its appreciation for his contributions to media freedom. An accomplished reporter, editor and broadcasting executive who served U.S. international media for 15 years, including as Voice of America director and chairman of the BBG, Tomlinson died last night at age 69.
“Ken Tomlinson brought a tremendous amount of journalistic experience to his work here, and that showed in his achievements,” said BBG Chairman Jeff Shell. “He was well regarded by many for having a keen sense of the news. He launched important projects in response to the information needs of audiences abroad. We send our condolences to his loved ones and former colleagues.”
President George W. Bush appointed Tomlinson to chair the BBG in 2002; he served until 2007. He came to the board as a former VOA Director from 1982 to 1984, with a track record of notable roles in journalism over the course of more than 35 years, including as a member of the Board for International Broadcasting (BIB), the predecessor to the BBG, from 1987 until its dissolution in 1994.
While chairing the BBG, Tomlinson oversaw the launch of the Arabic-language Alhurra TV. Commemorating the station’s 10th anniversary earlier this year, the current BBG board noted that Alhurra “explains U.S. foreign policy to millions of Arabic-speaking viewers and is the only Arabic-language channel with dedicated correspondents at the White House, U.S. Department of State, Congress and the Pentagon,” and that it “frequently covers topics not regularly addressed in the region’s media, including human rights, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech.”
Tomlinson is also credited with significantly expanding the agency’s radio and TV programming for Afghanistan, Iran and Cuba.
Tomlinson began his media career as a reporter for The Richmond Times-Dispatch in 1965. In 1968, he moved to the Washington bureau of Reader’s Digest, serving as a correspondent in Vietnam, and eventually in Paris, where he covered events in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
After his tenure at VOA, Tomlinson returned to Reader’s Digest to serve as managing editor. He became executive editor in 1985 and editor-in-chief in 1989. He retired from the magazine in 1996.
He is survived by his wife, Rebecca Moore Tomlinson, and two sons.