Deal lets PBS sta­tions air Is­lam film; dis­cus­sion added to pro­vide ‘con­text’

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Jen­nifer Harper

A doc­u­men­tary billed as “the film PBS doesn’t want you to see” will at long last get a na­tional au­di­ence.

The Cor­po­ra­tion for Pub­lic Broad­cast­ing (CPB) and Ore­gon Pub­lic Broad­cast­ing (OPB) an­nounced a joint agree­ment on May 23 to make “Is­lam vs. Is­lamists” avail­able to the 354 Pub­lic Broad­cast­ing Ser­vice mem­ber sta­tions across the na­tion as a “stand­alone” TV pro­gram, with a lit­tle ex­tra em­bel­lish­ment.

“We plan to dis­trib­ute the film to any pub­lic broad­cast­ing sta- tion that wants it. We’ll pack­age it and also pro­duce some sort of dis­cus­sion to ac­com­pany the film, and give it some con­text,” OPB Pres­i­dent Steve Bass told The Wash­ing­ton Times.

“There has been a lot of de­bate on whether this pro­gram needed edit­ing. Some said yes, some no. When you’re deal­ing with an ob­ject of con­tro­versy, it is bet­ter to let the au­di­ence draw their own con­clu­sions,” Mr. Bass said.

“As stew­ards of the in­vest­ment in pub­lic broad­cast­ing, this ful­fills our re­spon­si­bil­ity to the tax­payer,” CPB Pres­i­dent Pa­tri­cia Har­ri­son said.

The of­ten-dis­qui­et­ing 52-minute film ex­plores the strug­gles of mod­er­ate Amer­i­can Mus­lims at the hands of their rad­i­cal brethren and gives de­tails about a “par­al­lel” Is­lamist so­ci­ety that is slowly but surely de­vel­op­ing within the U.S. borders. The film was pro­duced by con­ser­va­tive colum­nist Frank Gaffney Jr., founder of the Cen­ter for Se­cu­rity Pol­icy, film­maker Mar­tyn Burke and Mid­dle East scholar Alex Alex­iev.

Orig­i­nally made for the six-part PBS se­ries “Amer­ica at a Cross­roads,” the film was in­tended for broad­cast in early April. It never made it to the air, how­ever. The pro­duc­ers, who re­ceived $675,000 in fund­ing, said their work was shelved in “an ide­o­log­i­cal vendetta” and sti­fled on “po­lit­i­cal grounds.”

They of­fered crit­i­cal pro­duc­tion notes from PBS as ev­i­dence. The lengthy notes said, among other things, that the doc­u­men­tary “de­mo­nized Is­lam” and pro­moted fear of Is­lamist or­ga­ni­za­tions.

“This is a well-doc­u­mented, text­book case of the abuse of tax­payer fund­ing by el­e­ments in the pub­lic broad­cast­ing sys­tem to ad­vo­cate their agenda and en­sure that peo­ple who have a dif­fer­ent agenda don’t get on the air,” Mr. Gaffney said at the time. “The pub­lic ought to be al­lowed to see a film which PBS doesn’t want them to see.”

The pro­duc­ers have staged sev­eral private screen­ings for law­mak­ers and jour­nal­ists to make their point. Af­ter the an­nounce­ment on May 23, the au­di­ence could be con­sid­er­ably larger.

The “Ore­gon so­lu­tion” was a gra­cious res­o­lu­tion to the sit­u­a­tion, one broad­cast source said.

The de­tails have not been ham­mered out, but OPB’s Mr. Bass an­tic­i­pates that the doc­u­men­tary — and its ex­tra taped dis­cus­sion — will be made avail­able na­tion­wide in the next few months.

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