Representatives of several liberal groups delivered signed petitions to New York City’s WNET Aug. 13, urging the station to ask PBS to air the documentary Citizen Koch, a critical look at the increasing political influence of the conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.
"We plan to forward the petition to PBS," said WNET spokesman Harry Forbes, adding that WNET has not received an offer to broadcast the film. "Hypothetically, if the film were offered to us for free, we would certainly be happy to look at it."
Tia Lessin, a spokesperson for Citizen Koch’s production company Elsewhere Films, said there will be no such offer. "We think that WNET has a responsibility to call for a national broadcast," she said, adding that the company wants WNET to put pressure on the Independent Television Service (ITVS) as well.
In May, an article by Jane Mayer in The New Yorker suggested that ITVS had backed out of plans to distribute Citizen Koch to avoid offending WNET and David Koch, who sat on the station’s board of trustees at the time. Koch has since left the board. ITVS also withdrew funding for the film.
The groups delivering the petitions — Working Families, MoveOn, Credo Action and Demand Progress — said in a press release that they collected more than 350,000 signatures. In an email to Current, Working Families spokesperson Joe Dinkin acknowledged that he could not guarantee that no signatures were duplicates but added, "We feel pretty comfortable calling it about 350,000, even if there are a few thousand overlapping somehow."
In a press release accompanying the petitions, Working Families Party Executive Director Dan Cantor said, "Public media is critical to our democracy, but when it bows to powerful billionaires like the Koch brothers, it has failed in its mission."
Citizen Koch recently closed a 30-day Kickstarter campaign, raising $169,522 for the film — more than twice its initial fundraising goal. The documentary’s directors turned to Kickstarter after losing support from ITVS.