PBS Ombudsman: fireworks, debates and Moyers

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In a recent column, PBS ombudsman Michael Getler says his mailbag was slammed with letters from disconcerted viewers on the eve of July 4th. Many were in a tizzy that the “Capitol Fourth” telecast went off the air before the fireworks finale was over. One viewer wrote, “Who made the decision to run credits and leave the air before the Grand Finale of the Washington, DC, 4th of July fireworks display? Is he or she still employed by PBS?” Others wondered whether the extravaganza’s religious content belonged on PBS. “My fiance and I turned on the Capitol 4th PBS special to enjoy a celebration of what has made America great – our diversity,” wrote one viewer. “We were dismayed to find ourselves listening to a series of songs that while beautifully sung, were a celebration of Jesus.”

Response to Tavis Smiley’s “All-American Presidential Forum” (broadcast June 28) was generally positive. Some viewers, concerned with the racial makeup of the audience and the focus on “Black America,” took issue with whether the forum was “All-American.” Others thought the production was not up to par. Getler weighs in on Smiley’s controversial choice to use pollster Frank Luntz (covered by Media Matters for America) to analyze viewer feedback.

Letters about Bill Moyers’ indictment of Rupert Murdoch (Bill Moyers Journal, June 29) all similarly complained about “politically skewed programs.” Some viewers apparently thought Moyers was speaking for PBS – wrote one, “I assumed that PBS was politically neutral.”

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