Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Free the Film!

If a fact had been carefully hidden from the American public, and you were a public broadcasting service, wouldn't you want to make the public aware of it? Apparently not if you're PBS. Why? Because of the entertainment value that accrues from an America-vs-Islam perspective that you want to maintain? I wish I knew.

I recently sent an e-mail to the Ombudsman of PBS, asking him why PBS would not air the film "Islam vs. Islamists". Several people have viewed the finished product, and think it is not only very pertinent but also very professionally done. My correspondence said:

I recently found out that PBS will not be showing the film "Islam vs. Islamists" as part of the "America at a Crossroads" series. Islam vs. Islamists would make a unique contribution to our understanding of Islam--something that no other episodes that have been included in the series would tell--by showing that there are many Muslims who support democracy and liberty. With whom do I correspond to express my displeasure at the fact that "Islam vs. Islamists" has been spiked?

I heard guest Martin Burke on The Right Balance this morning explaining the motivations behind PBS' spiking of the film. The producers and advocates of "Islam vs Islamists" has started a website called Instead of providing a balanced view of moderate vs. radical Islam, PBS included in its "America at the Crossroads" lineup a film produced by PBS own Robert MacNeil. Instead of illustrating the divide between moderates and radicals, MacNeil's is essentially a hit piece that praises the radical facets of Islam and denigrates America in the process. Several members of Congress have requested that, because it is so balanced, PBS air the documentary. The likelihood of that is very slim. And more problematically, PBS owns the broadcasting rights. For now, you can download the movie trailer, and request a copy of the DVD (should it ever become available, PBS?) on

By the way, the PBS Ombudsman's response to my e-mail was the following:

Dear Mr. Staheli:

Thank you for writing to PBS regarding your concerns about "Islam vs.
the Islamists." We welcome the opportunity to clarify that this film,
along with others, is still in the production and editing process.

"Islam vs. the Islamists" was developed as part of the AMERICA AT A
CROSSROADS initiative, a competitive grant project created to explore
our post-9/11 world. The film was chosen to move forward in the
production process because it offers an important examination of a
complex topic. The programming teams at WETA, the series' presenting
station, and PBS have asked the film's producers to meet our
editorial standards, which is a requirement for all the content that
is presented on our schedule. These standards are posted on our Web site at:

The PBS programming staff, in collaboration with the independent
producers who partner with us, works very hard to ensure that all the
programs it distributes to public television stations meet high
standards of quality and journalistic excellence. This commitment
accounts for PBS' extraordinary track record in Emmy, DuPont
Columbia, and Peabody awards as well as PBS' long-standing position
as the most trusted public institution in America.

We look forward to continuing to work with the producers on the
development of this documentary. Other films that were not completed
in time for the April 15 premier are currently being scheduled to air
later this year. It is our hope that we will be able to add "Islam
vs. the Islamists" to this list.

Again, thank you for writing to PBS. We appreciate your concern for
our programming.


PBS Viewer Services
From, the definition of Ombudsman is:

A person who regurgitates the party line when receiving complaints from outside entities.

No...actually, I was sort of kidding. The real definition is this:

A person who investigates and attempts to resolve complaints and problems, as between employees and an employer or between students and a university.

Maybe PBS needs to get a new ombudsman.


Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention that "Islam vs. Islamists" is a film executive produced by Frank Gaffney. I have no doubt it violates PBS standards of objectivity, although I'd like to watch the DVD.

BillT said...

Excellent job, Frank. Stay on this.

Michael said...

Frank, thanks for your service. Tell all the soldiers you know how much we love and appreciate their service as well.


LOL, what standards of objectivity at PBS are you talking about? The liberal, left ones?

The film needs to be shown! I swear some in this country are completely clueless.

Dan Gubler said...

You do a fantastic job. When I first heard about this program being shown, I was exited to see what they had to show, compare, and analyze. I wanted to see if their conclusions paralled mine own. PBS does seem to have a left leaning attitude and maybe that has something to do with it. Maybe the ACLU has threatend them and bullied them into not showing this film. We all know of the bullshit they're capable of pulling. Just a Thought.

Frank Staheli said...


PBS and objectivity in the same sentence. Now there's some acrobatic gyrations.

Bill, Michael, Dan:

Thanks for your comments. I would be satisfied if PBS just sold the rights to the film so that the Free the Film Foundation could market it (and pay back any funds to PBS/FedGov that they need to--which I'm sure they could do easily and still make a profit.)

It really is just a matter of putting the information out there and letting people see if they agree with it. There's no question, from viewing the trailer, and from hearing what Muslims like Zuhdi Jasser have to say about it, that it would be a unique offering in Islamic documentaries.

newkillerstar said...

I agree that Frank Gaffney is not exactly the name I first think of when I think about objectivity. He's a bombthrower a lot of the time, especially about this particular issue.

I watched all of America at a Crossroads, and it was a really good series, I thought. It did make a sincere, obvious effort to include a lot of different perspectives and voices, and the whole package was really worthwhile TV. They had a documentary done by Richard Perle, of all people, I hardly think they were discriminating against conservatives there. Actually all their features on Iraq and the conflict there, specifically, were really well done. "Gangs of Iraq" was fascinating.

Frank Staheli said...

I'll have to take a look at the series as it is. That's good to hear that it had variety and apparent objectivity. I just wish I could see "Islam vs Islamists"--whether it's under the auspices of PBS or something else, because there appear to be alot of Muslims who think it has a strong and valid point that needs to be made.

newkillerstar said...

Frank, it was quite a good series, and I do recommend it a great deal. I feel like I learned a LOT from it that I'd have never known otherwise. The film that they showed first - Jihad: The Men and Ideas behind Al-Qaeda was majorly informational about bin Ladin's life and how Al Qaeda came to be. If they reair it, I think you might like that one.

There were a couple other series on Islam and Muslim life so probably there just wasn't room for Gaffney's piece, and since he's such an alarmist I understand why they didn't include it.

I dont know what will become of that particular film but I feel like it wasn't really needed for this series.