In radio appearance, ‘Citizen Koch’ filmmakers allege self-censorship in public TV

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The filmmakers behind a new documentary briefly discussed their “deeply troubling” experience with public TV in an appearance on public radio’s On Point Wednesday. Tia Lessin and Carl Deal directed Citizen Koch, now hitting theaters after vying for grant funding and a broadcast commitment from PBS’s Independent Lens. The film examines the influence of wealthy conservatives such as David and Charles Koch on Republican politics.

A May 2013 article by the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer suggested that ITVS, Independent Lens’s producer, backed away from the film due to pressure from New York’s WNET, where David Koch sat on the board. Appearing on On Point, Lessin and Deal said ITVS asked them to remove content related to the Kochs from their film and to change the name.

“What they told us is that the title of the film would render it unbroadcastable,” Deal said.

“It was self-censorship on the part of these public television officials who were cowing to this high-dollar donor,” added Lessin.

A Salon article about Citizen Koch posted Wednesday bore the headline “’Citizen Koch’: The movie about our sick democracy PBS tried to kill.” Author Andrew O’Hehir summarizes the film’s back story and, as for the film, adds that it “sometimes feels like a mosaic of incompatible fragments.”

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