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Tue May 21, 2013, 09:40 AM

PBS's Koch Problem: How a Major Right-Wing Funder Undercut Key Films [View all]


Don’t miss Jane Mayer’s feature at The New Yorker, just posted online, on little-known story of how PBS’s WNET in New York reacted in showing Alex Gibney doc Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream. The film did air, but see what surrounded it.

Problem: It partly focused on the Koch Brothers, and David Koch is a major, longtime WNET funder. So WNET bent over backwards to give him a chance to respond even before the doc aired, and also scheduled a roundtable to discuss it. Gibney: “They tried to undercut the credibility of the film, and I had no opportunity to defend it…. Why is WNET offering Mr. Koch special favors? And why did the station allow Koch to offer a critique of a film he hadn’t even seen? Money. Money talks.”

And then another documentary realating to the Kochs ran into trouble and lost funding.

But Mayer’s conclusion: “In the end, the various attempts to assuage David Koch were apparently insufficient. On Thursday, May 16th, WNET’s board of directors quietly accepted his resignation. It was the result, an insider said, of his unwillingness to back a media organization that had so unsparingly covered its sponsor.”

Read more: http://www.thenation.com/blog/174426/pbss-koch-problem-how-major-right-wing-funder-undercut-key-films#ixzz2TvyimEzA

A WORD FROM OUR SPONSORPublic television’s attempts to placate David Koch

LLast fall, Alex Gibney, a documentary filmmaker who won an Academy Award in 2008 for an exposé of torture at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan, completed a film called “Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream.” It was scheduled to air on PBS on November 12th. The movie had been produced independently, in part with support from the Gates Foundation. “Park Avenue” is a pointed exploration of the growing economic inequality in America and a meditation on the often self-justifying mind-set of “the one per cent.” As a narrative device, Gibney focusses on one of the most expensive apartment buildings in Manhattan—740 Park Avenue—portraying it as an emblem of concentrated wealth and contrasting the lives of its inhabitants with those of poor people living at the other end of Park Avenue, in the Bronx.

Among the wealthiest residents of 740 Park is David Koch, the billionaire industrialist, who, with his brother Charles, owns Koch Industries, a huge energy-and-chemical conglomerate. The Koch brothers are known for their strongly conservative politics and for their efforts to finance a network of advocacy groups whose goal is to move the country to the right. David Koch is a major philanthropist, contributing to cultural and medical institutions that include Lincoln Center and New York-Presbyterian Hospital. In the nineteen-eighties, he began expanding his charitable contributions to the media, donating twenty-three million dollars to public television over the years. In 1997, he began serving as a trustee of Boston’s public-broadcasting operation, WGBH, and in 2006 he joined the board of New York’s public-television outlet, WNET. Recent news reports have suggested that the Koch brothers are considering buying eight daily newspapers owned by the Tribune Company, one of the country’s largest media empires, raising concerns that its publications—which include the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times—might slant news coverage to serve the interests of their new owners, either through executive mandates or through self-censorship. Clarence Page, a liberal Tribune columnist, recently said that the Kochs appeared intent on using a media company “as a vehicle for their political voice.”

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