The Koch Brothers, unsatisfied with controlling a plethora of coin operated politicians (they insert the coins) are now looking to control information the public sees by their attempt to buy several large newspapers as well. And now it seems that a documentary that exposed their post Citizens United involvement in politics through a focus on the Cheesehead Rebellion in Wisconsin may have been pulled due to the influence of David Koch.
Originally slated to appear on PBS stations nationwide as part of the "Independent Lens" series, "Citizen Koch" had its funding pulled after David Koch was offended by another PBS documentary critical of the billionaire industrialists.Jane Mayer, in a New Yorker article, writes about this as an after-effect from an earlier PBS documentary which was critical of the Kochs and others.
David Kochs large donations to PBS as well as serving as a trustee on 2 of the largest public television stations in the country, WBGH Boston and WNET New York. She also unwinds the larger story about his (and other uber wealthy residents of 740 Park Ave) disapproval of a documentary (“Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream") that eventually aired on PBS which contrasted their lives with the lives of those who live on the poor end of Park Avenue.
Mayer, speaking of the earlier documentary which did air in November, wrote:
In a recent phone interview, Neal Shapiro, the president of WNET, said that he grew concerned about the film, which he had not yet watched, after Ira Stoll, a conservative writer, lambasted it in the Post. On the Friday before the film’s Monday airdate, Stoll, whose Web site, Future of Capitalism, has frequently defended the Kochs, wrote, “If the station has any sense, it will use the time until then to reconsider its decision to air the program.” He added, “If it doesn’t, its trustees and donors, some of whom live on Park Avenue, may want to consider whether they want to continue supporting an institution that insults them so viciously.”This seems to have led Shapiro to contact David Koch about the film and to include a roundtable discussion and request comments to be included in it to "provide other points of view". While David Koch passed on the opportunity to participate in the discussion or provide a comment (a Koch Industries spokesperson later sent a comment critical of the documentary shortly before it aired), the fact that such a call was made is troubling.
Shapiro acknowledges that his call to Koch was unusual. Although many prominent New Yorkers are portrayed in “Park Avenue,” he said that he “only just called David Koch. He’s on our board. He’s the biggest main character. No one else, just David Koch. Because he’s a trustee. It’s a courtesy.” Shapiro, who joined WNET six years ago, from NBC News, added, “I can’t remember doing anything like this—I can’t remember another documentary centered around New York and key people in the city, and such controversial topics.”The film did air unedited after some consideration about pulling the film.
PBS has standards for “editorial integrity,” and its guidelines state that “member stations are responsible for shielding the creative and editorial processes from political pressure or improper influence from funders or other sources.”
Shapiro emphasized that, by showing the Gibney film, he had made “the right call.” Still, spokespeople at WNET and PBS conceded that the decision to run the rebuttals was unprecedented. Indeed, it was like appending Letters to the Editor to a front-page article.It's about to get stranger.
This brings us to another documentary, Citizen Koch, which has been in the final stages of production, had already been shown at Sundance, received approval for funding from ITVS (the Independent Television Service), and things were going smoothly until the Park Avenue documentary was shown on PBS.
A television producer knowledgeable about ITVS said that “there had been no concern” until the Gibney documentary aired, and that few executives there had watched the rough cut. Suddenly, many ITVS officials seemed desperate to see it. Lessin and Deal were told to send a password-protected video link of the unfinished film to ITVS. Within days, the video had been played almost thirty times. “It was a real problem, because of ‘Park Avenue,’ ” a public-television official aware of the situation said. “Because of the whole thing with the Koch brothers, ITVS knew WNET would never air it. Never.”Then things went wonky with ITVS. They insisted that the name of the film be changed and the influence of the Kochs be downplayed, however even after making the changes ITVS requested along with further negotiations, ITVS ended the negotiations with the producers.
Lessin and Deal said, in a joint statement, “The film we made is identical in premise and execution to the written and video proposals that ITVS green-lit last spring. ITVS backed out of the partnership because they came to fear the reaction our film would provoke. David Koch, whose political activities are featured in the film, happens to be a public-television funder and a trustee of both WNET and WGBH. This wasn’t a failed negotiation or a divergence of visions; it was censorship, pure and simple.” The filmmakers consider this an ironic turn: “It’s the very thing our film is about—public servants bowing to pressures, direct or indirect, from high-dollar donors.”(bolding added by me)
David Koch quietly resigned his position at WNET last week.
Please take the time to read Jane Mayers article which details the long and winding road I've tried to present to you. It shows how powerful money is and the kind of influence it has as well as the media self-censorship that concern us most.
And it certainly shows why the Kochs should never, ever have control of our media, including the 8 large newspapers they want to buy.
Citizen Koch website is here. Definitely worth a visit.
From our TM: crickets.