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They even sold our History! Smithsonian's secret deal with Showtime

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LiviaOlivia Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-14-06 06:13 PM
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They even sold our History! Smithsonian's secret deal with Showtime
They even sold our History! Smithsonian's secret deal with Showtime
By Raven
Apr 18 2006

We all know Satayana's Famous warning about those who forget their history...

As part of a near-exclusive deal with Showtime Networks, the Smithsonian Institution is restricting filmmakers' access to its scientists and archives...., Now most filmmakers will not have in-depth use of Smithsonian materials unless they are creating work for the Smithsonian/Showtime unit. Which means effectively that $800 million <3> a year in taxpayer funds we spend on the venerable institution has just become another form of corporate welfare.

To understand what an utter outrage this deal is you must first understand the incredible depth and breadth of the institution and its archives <4>. First, the Smithsonian is not a single museum but 15 separate museums covering almost every imaginable subject from the Famous Air and Space museum to the National Zoo to the newly opened American Indian Museum. And even that only scratches the surface of what the Institution really is. The institute's archives hold millions of historical documents, and photographs, miles of film ( 8 million feet in the anthropology archive alone), and thousands of hours of recordings that are unique and able to be found nowhere else in the world. And all of it, every last treasure, was just made off-limits without permission from the Smithsonian's corporate partner Showtime. Or to quote...Documentarian Ken Burns <5>:

"History's just been made for sale to an inside deal," said Ken Burns, the Emmy-winning producer of the documentaries "Baseball" and "The Civil War."...I was horrified that the Smithsonian would even contemplate a deal that would give a for-profit broadcaster the right of first refusal," said Nina Gilden Seavey, an Emmy-winning filmmaker and director of the Documentary Center at George Washington University. "It is a fire sale of the nation's history."

...Effectively it means that from now on anybody who wants to do ANYTHING about the Smithsonian, its collections, or even staff has to offer to sell Showtime the finished product:

Jeanny Kim, the vice president for media services at Smithsonian Business Ventures, said the filmmakers who were doing "more than an incidental treatment" of a subject mainly from Smithsonian materials or wishing to focus on a Smithsonian curator or scientist would first have to offer the idea to Smithsonian/Showtime. Otherwise, the archives could not be used.

Not only is this an outrageous enrichment of a private company at public expense, but it is literally allowing a corporation to spin our history as it sees fit. According to the deal, to get access to the Archives, Filmmakers MUST sell their final products to Showtime if Showtime wishes to purchase them. However there are no control on what Showtime does once the film is in their possession, whether or if they ever air it, and what edits they may chose to make before doing so. They are now free to spin pieces of the historical record anyway they find convenient and no one can effectively rebut them. It almost goes without saying that this is an unbelievably dangerous idea.

Worse yet, Showtime is a only a tiny part of the Communications Giant Viacom <6>. Viacom's other holdings include: CBS, dozens of Local TV and Radio Stations , 20 different cable channels (including MTV and all its demon-spawn), Simon and Schuster publishers, King World Distributors, etc. and it would be utterly nave to believe that they have no plans for leveraging their access to the Smithsonian's collections for corporate synergy purposes. Those things they find helpful or profitable can be promoted and those they find unhelpful can be suppressed (for example inconvenient historical records that contradict a Blockbuster Biopic made by Paramount, might never see the light of Day if Viacom decided releasing them would hurt the Box office gross)

We have fought hard to save other National treasures like ANWAR, and staked out the principle that sacrificing our natural heritage for short term corporate profits was a bad idea. That principle has Never been more imperiled than by this back room, still-secret deal that effectively turns over millions or unique and irreplaceable historical records, knowledge and artifacts to a giant entertainment company. If you stood Up for ANWAR it's time to stand again and not let a giant Mega-corporation take sole ownership of your History.

Source URL:

<4> /

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Kutjara Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-14-06 06:19 PM
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1. This is disgusting.
It's another example of the intellectual property landgrab that's going on worldwide, as corporations scramble to tie up the rights to humanity's cultural heritage. How long will it be before we're reading the 'Coca Cola Declaration of Independence' and the 'Gettysburg Address, brought to you by Chevrolet'?
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peacetalksforall Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-14-06 06:35 PM
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2. It's ANOTHER PRIVATIZATION - our stuff was sold to a corporation!
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LiviaOlivia Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-14-06 06:48 PM
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3. more from ThinkProgress-The Smithsonian Sells Out to Showtime
from /
The Smithsonian Sells Out to Showtime

The Smithsonian Institution is an American treasure, attracting some 25 million visitors every year. It keeps an incredible archive of collections and has some of the most talented curatorial staff on the planet. But last month, the Institution announced a joint venture with Showtime Networks(owned by Viacom) to create a new television network. While at first blush the deal sounds like a creative way to raise much-needed funds, this deal is bad news. Two main problems:

1) The Institution refuses to disclose the deal they signed with Showtime, claiming it is a business contract that does not involve federal funds. Actually, the Institution is publicly chartered and receives 75 percent of its funding from federal appropriations or government grants and contracts.

2) Though details are murky, we do know that the arrangement gives the new joint venture a right of first refusal on key parts of the Smithsonian archives. In other words, filmmakers, historians, or others who might want to use certain Smithsonian materials could be blocked if Showtime executives say so. PBS documentarian Ken Burns called the policy terrifying, and said it would have prohibited him from making some of his recent works.

Over 200 concerned filmmakers, law professors, historians, archivists, Internet pioneers, and others have signed a letter asking the Smithsonian to annul the contract and hold public hearings. Also, the Center for American Progress has filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking that the contract be brought into the public eye. (Were pleased that Electronic Frontier Foundation is representing us on this request.)

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Vidar Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-14-06 10:16 PM
Response to Original message
4. "Ownership Society"
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Elidor Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-15-06 06:26 AM
Response to Original message
5. This is so fucking insane
Someone should sue. Gah! It's a bit early in the day for fresh outrage. I shouldn't have read this yet.
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earth mom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-15-06 10:42 AM
Response to Original message
6. There had better be a lawsuit in the works over this b.s.
Edited on Mon May-15-06 10:42 AM by TheGoldenRule
:grr: :grr: :grr:
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EVDebs Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-15-06 10:57 AM
Response to Original message
7. No airing of 'Plot To Seize The White House'
or any critical looks at BFEE activities lo these many years. Poppy's son covers for Poppy's (and Prescott and Geo. Herbert Walker's) acts.
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Top Lizard Donating Member (34 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-15-06 10:58 AM
Response to Original message
8. Cold Cash Trumps History and Fairness
I was disappointed but not surprised when this "fabulous" deal was first announced. Like most cultural institutions, the Smithsonian is under constant pressure to increase its revenue. For years, companies have offered exclusive Smithsonian-approved books, models, science kits, and so on. From time to time, however, the money-raising and public relations folks go overboard. (Despite the generally good work they do, these types can have a rather narrow focus.)

I have not yet asked friends at SI about this, but I'd like to hope that it won't last as policy if there's a major public outcry. (The Smithsonian is, after all, partially funded by taxpayers.) It's one thing to rename your theater the "Lockheed Martin IMAX Theater" as part of a corporate branding effort, and it's something else entirely to have your entire nation's history brought to you by Showtime.
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LiberalEsto Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-15-06 11:26 AM
Response to Original message
9. Larry Small, the POS in charge of the Smithsonian
is a greedy asshole. Before the Smithsonian, he was head of Fannie Mae, which he also managed to fuck up royally, while looting it.
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Festivito Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-15-06 01:39 PM
Response to Original message
10. Selling everything AND we cannot balance a budget? /nt
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