Last Wednesday, the Oregon Public Broadcasting Service announced that it had reached an agreement with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) that seemed, at first blush, to represent a breakthrough: The national Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) would no longer prevent the airing of a film CPB commissioned as part of its “America at a Crossroads” series called “Islam vs. Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Center.” Instead, PBS’s Oregon stations would make it available to the more than 350 other affiliates across the country.
As one of the Co-Executive Producers of this film, I began to receive a number of congratulatory messages from all over the country. Most were from people who had followed the saga of this documentary about moderate Muslims who have courageously challenged co-religionists known as Islamists – adherents to a totalitarian political ideology seeking to dominate the Muslim faith and, in turn, the world. Like innumerable editorialists, bloggers and ordinary citizens around the country, the authors of these messages had been frustrated and outraged when PBS and its Washington flagship, WETA, culminated months of efforts to alter and then censor “Islam vs. Islamists” by refusing to broadcast it, as planned, as part of the “Crossroads” series rolled out last month. They assumed that the Oregon announcement meant national distribution was imminent.
Unfortunately, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s arrangement with the Oregon PBS means no such thing. Far from the treatment accorded other “Crossroads” series programs – nationwide broadcast by the Public Broadcasting Service, in prime-time with a substantial promotional budget – “Islam vs. Islamists” would simply be “made available” to PBS stations. Maybe some would decide to run it over the next few months. Maybe they would do so at 3:00 a.m. or Sunday afternoons when practically no one is watching. There are no guarantees of pick-up in any, let alone all, major markets.
Worse yet, the Oregon distributors have announced that they will accompany the film with the equivalent of a consumer warning label – a “discussion” that will provide “context” for viewers. Presumably, this means the sort of “context” our film’s critics at PBS and WETA kept trying to impose on us: Changes that they believed would make it, in their words, less “one-sided” (read, more fair to the Islamists) and less “alarmist.”
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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