PBS engaged in censorship of a documentary on the Bush Administration’s involvement in torture. The documentary “Torturing Democracy” put together by Emmy award winning producer Sherry Jones was approved by PBS with the understanding that it would be ready for showing after May 2008. At that time, however, PBS informed Jones that it had no date available before January 21, 2008, the day after Bush would leave office.
Undeterred, Jones proceeded to pitch the program individually to PBS’s affiliates. 65% of them agreed to show the program, including those in most major markets, except one WETA in Washington, DC. Given the documentary’s subject matter and that DC is the nation’s capital, this would seem precisely the community which would be most interested in it. But WETA’s CEO is Sharon Percy Rockefeller, the wife of Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, a man who certainly never opposed and may have abetted the Administration’s torture programs.
In response to the March 24, 2008 Frontline “Bush’s War”, a fairly conventional retelling of the run up to the Iraq War with no new material, the Administration threatened to cut in half and then eliminate federal funding for PBS within 3 years. Now it’s important to realize that, with a Democratic Congress, the Administration had no real ability to carry out its threat. But the pressure appears to have had its desired effect anyway. Indeed PBS, far from being independent, has shown itself to be politically responsive to powerbrokers on both sides of the aisle.