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  • Jed Riffe

    I read the January 21, 2015 article Filmmakers push for common carriage at first stop in public TV “listening tour.” I have been producing independent programming for public televisions stations and the national system since l975 when my first documentary was broadcast on KERA in Dallas. Since then I have produced seven nationally broadcast documentaries for The American Experience, Independent Lens, PBS and the four hour, independently produced, nationally broadcast series California and the American Dream of which I was one of three series producers.

    I attended the listening tour event last Saturday in San Francisco. I was the last speaker and challenged Beth Hoppe directly on her statement (paraphrased) that It is better for PBS to just throw the series (IL and POV) up on the satellite and let stations air them as many times as they want rather than require common carriage. As the Current.org article states many of my colleagues expressed the same strong feelings I expressed opposing this move. No one supported the proposed move of the two series to WNET’s secondary channel.

    What concerns me the most is that the reporter did not get the speakers positions right that she cites below as “supporting PBS decision makers.” They were being “ nice” or “gracious” in their opening statements but they also expressed their feelings about the proposed moves by WNET and PBS to further marginalize independent filmmaking on public television. The article makes it appear that Tabitha Jackson and Susan Stern were there to support PBS versus opposing the moves WNET and PBS proposed making to IL and POV. I think if you contact them they will agree that they were not represented correctly in the article (see below).

    Several speakers expressed support for PBS’s decision-makers.

    “I’m aware of the difficult decisions you have to make,” said Tabitha Jackson, director of the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program and Fund, addressing the panelists. “With my Sundance hat on, I wish to say that we support independent filmmaking because it is an expression and a reflection of who we are and what it’s like to be alive in this world.”

    Susan Stern of New Day Films, a distribution cooperative representing “more than 150 filmmaker members,” thanked “PBS, ITVS and all of you for keeping PBS alive — because we know you’ve been fighting.”

    I would like the reporter to review the entire statements of both Tabitha and Susan as well as the other speakers and correct his story.

    • Jed — Thank you for commenting. We believe that the story is balanced and accurately reflects the tone and substance of the meeting. Several other quotes in the story make clear how the independent filmmakers felt about the situation. The filmmakers expressed themselves clearly and were quoted accurately. And Jackson and Stern unequivocally expressed support for the filmmakers, in remarks that are quoted here. — Mike Janssen, Digital Editor

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