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PBS Forced Producer to Revise Content of Genocide Documentary
PBS Forced Producer to Revise Content of Genocide Documentary
By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
March 23, 2006'
The Ombudsman for PBS, Michael Getler, revealed in a commentary last week that unnamed "top PBS officials" were involved in editing and revising the content of Andrew Goldberg’s documentary on the Armenian Genocide that most PBS stations plan to air on April 17.
Getler quoted these PBS officials as saying: "We worked with the producer [Goldberg] through his final editing to ensure that the program met our standards. We, through Oregon Public Broadcasting, vetted its content with a historian and journalist unconnected with the show." These officials were also quoted as saying that they "were in contact with him [Goldberg] requesting script revisions" as he "was finishing" the documentary.
This alarming revelation becomes even more ominous when coupled with the fact that PBS officials decided to supplement the show with a 25-minute debate on the Armenian Genocide with the participation of two genocide deniers.
These PBS officials and producer Goldberg should disclose to the public which segments of the documentary were added, deleted or altered as a result of such outside intervention. Could it be that the two Turkish denialists who were interviewed within the documentary were added at the insistence of PBS? What else was changed due to the censorship of the work of an independent producer? Furthermore, PBS should reveal the names of the “historian and journalist unconnected with the show” who “vetted” the documentary. Who are these two individuals and what changes did they recommend?
Getler stated in his lengthy commentary (4 times as long as this column) that PBS has received more than 6,000 e-mails protesting the panel discussion. More than 18,000 individuals have also objected by signing an online petition. As a result, Getler reported that PBS stations in 8 of the 10 largest American cities do not plan to air the panel. This proves that the executives running the largest PBS stations nationwide disagree with those at PBS headquarters who decided that there was a need for such a panel! The programming directors of these major PBS stations said that the panel discussion did not add anything to the documentary.
The Ombudsman made one serious factual error in his commentary. He wrongly claimed that "a resolution [on the Armenian genocide] has not made its way through the full House or the U.S. Senate." Both in 1975 and 1984 the full House adopted resolutions to observe "a day of remembrance for all the victims of genocide, especially the 1.5 million people of Armenian ancestry who were the victims of the genocide perpetrated in Turkey between 1915 and 1923."
Jacoba Atlas, the Senior Vice President of PBS programming, and her colleagues, by insisting on the airing of the panel discussion, have caused significant damage to the reputation and operations of PBS, making it the target of criticism by members of Congress, major newspapers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, TV stations, and tens of thousands of viewers who signed petitions and sent letters and e-mails to PBS.
On March 9, the Los Angeles Times published a commentary by Aris Janigian titled: "PBS’ Perverse Genocide Debate." He accused Atlas and PBS of being "complicit in a murderous lie" by providing airtime and a forum to "deniers" and "falsifiers" of the Armenian Genocide. The L.A. Voice published an editorial on March 9, ridiculing both Atlas and PBS for treating the Armenian Genocide as a myth.
Current magazine published a lengthy article in its March 6 issue, titled: "Panel show riles rather than soothes genocide furor." The magazine quoted Atlas as making yet another nonsensical statement as to why the panel discussion was necessary: "Our own presidents – both Bush and Clinton – did not call it genocide. Because they have declined to call it genocide, it raises questions. The Turkish government does not call it genocide." This is the same official who recently announced that PBS considers the Armenian Genocide "settled history!" If PBS acknowledges the facts of the Armenian Genocide, why then question it and put on the air deniers who say that it is a myth? Regarding statements made by U.S. presidents on the Armenian Genocide, one wonders why Atlas is ignoring the fact that Pres. Ronald Reagan issued a Presidential Proclamation in 1981 in which he used the term "Armenian Genocide"? Must every U.S. president utter the words Armenian Genocide before Ms. Atlas is satisfied that it is genocide? So what if the Turkish government does not call it genocide? The President of Iran does not recognize the Holocaust. Is that enough reason for Atlas to dispute the facts of the Holocaust and air a debate on PBS with neo-Nazis?
Prof. Dennis R. Papazian, who initially was reluctant to support the campaign against the panel discussion, sent the following e-mail to this writer after watching the tape of the debate between Omer Turan and Justin McCarthy (genocide deniers) and Peter Balakian and Taner Akcam: "I have just previewed the post documentary discussion and it made me sick to my stomach to see Justin McCarthy and the Turks come out with blatant lies and deceptive assertions. I thought Taner and Peter ‘won the debate,’ but the denialists undoubtedly would plant doubt in the minds of innocent American viewers.” He then told this writer: “You did right to lead the attack against the showing of the ‘discussion.’ I personally would rather have neither shown than to show the discussion."
In a new twist to his long-standing denialist views, Prof. McCarthy was quoted by WNBC-TV in New York City as saying on March 1 that he would classify the events of 1915 as "mutual genocide," with both sides killing each other. McCarthy has gone from being completely wrong to being half right! He is for the first time accusing the Turkish leaders of committing genocide against the Armenians! One wonders what his Turkish handlers would think of his new admission?
Two weeks ago, in an e-mail to this writer, Wayne Godwin, the then Acting President and Chief Operating Officer of PBS, made a lame, but understandable, attempt to come to the defense of Ms. Atlas, claiming that the decision on the panel was reached by "the entire senior content team." If that is true, then “the entire senior content team” at PBS has made a grave error, thus making it even more problematic than a mistake by a single executive.
Finally, around 20 members of Congress have signed a joint letter to PBS asking that the panel discussion not be aired. As Congress provides a significant portion of the PBS budget, PBS executives can ill afford to ignore such letters from those who hold the purse strings.
Please continue to sign the online petition and circulate it to everyone in your e-mail address book or organization. Here is the link to the petition: http://www.PetitionOnline.com/pbspanel. Also, send an e-mail to Ms. Atlas at: Jatlas@pbs.org as well as to the new president of PBS: Paula Kerger at: Pkerger@pbs.org.
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