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COUNTERPUNCH LETTER : Questioning PBS 'Rights' Revisionism

November 14, 1994

Ervin S. Duggan's Counterpunch, "Rosenberg Errs in PBS Criticism" (Nov. 7), takes TV critic Howard Rosenberg to task for challenging public television's priorities in providing air time for "Quiz Show" while refusing to fund or distribute Charlayne Hunter-Gault's acclaimed human rights series "Rights & Wrongs."

The Public Broadcasting Service determined before we even went into production that, according to PBS programming chief Jennifer Lawson's now-infamous decision, human rights is an "insufficient organizing principle" for a series.

Now Duggan has come up with a revised explanation. He asserts that PBS' "programming professionals" judged that our series "did not treat the issues of human rights as skillfully" as we believed we had.

This revisionism conflicts with what we were told. Those programming professionals displayed a persistent bias against human rights as a subject, declaring it programma non grata from the outset. Only after a growing chorus of viewers, station heads and politicians--10% of the U.S. Congress has written Duggan in support of "Rights & Wrongs"--were joined by respected critics such as Rosenberg in ridiculing the PBS stance did Duggan come up with his new rationalization.

Obviously we have a disagreement with Duggan and his programmers. But so do many programmers within PBS. Earlier this year, more than 80 PBS stations (including KCET Channel 28) carried our series. And the MacArthur Foundation, George Soros' Open Society Fund, the Aaron Diamond Foundation and others will renew support for a third season.

We agree that "reasonable people" can disagree about PBS programming decisions. But it is unreasonable to invent new reasons for those programming decisions after the fact.



Executive Producers

"Rights & Wrongs"

Globalvision Inc., New York

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