Electronic genes: an important part of America’s cultural DNA

One witness the congressmen didn’t lecture about donor-list improprieties at a House telecom subcommittee hearing July 20 [1999], was documentarian Ken Burns, who carried the historical weight of Sullivan Ballou, Thomas Jefferson and Satchel Paige with him. His remarks for the rapidly organized hearing echoed parts of his keynote at the PBS Annual Meeting in June 1999. Let me say from the outset — as a father of two daughters and a film producer, increasingly concerned about violence on television — that I am a passionate lifelong supporter of public television and its unique role in helping to stitch our exquisite, diverse and often fragile culture together. Few institutions provide such a direct, grassroots way for our citizens to participate in the shared glories of their common past, in the power of the priceless ideals that have animated our remarkable republic and our national life for more than 200 years, and in the inspirational life of the mind and the heart that an engagement with the arts always provides. It is my wholehearted belief that anything which threatens this institution weakens our country.

FDR defenders enlist TV critics to refute Holocaust film

Weeks before the debut of an American Experience film on the U.S. response to the Holocaust, defenders of President Franklin Roosevelt undertook a quiet campaign to influence and later discredit historical analysis presented in “America and the Holocaust: Deceit and Indifference.” In the disturbing film, aired April 6, 1994, producer Marty Ostrow argued that the Roosevelt Administration knew that the Nazis were systematically slaughtering Jews and followed a policy of not rescuing them. The critics’ complaint, in the words of William vanden Heuvel, president of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, was that the film was “one-sided and grossly unfair, indifferent to the truth and deceitful in concept.” But when series producers sat down to evaluate the advance criticism with Ostrow and his team of historical advisors, they came to a different conclusion. “We came out of those meetings with confidence that the film was not only accurate, but it said what the authors of the film wanted it to say, and that they were on good ground,” said Judy Crichton, executive producer.