Public Television: Politics and the Battle over Documentary by B. J. Bullert

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By B. J. Bullert

B.J. Bullert's preface to Public tv illustrates her element with damning readability. simply as she suggestion every little thing used to be in place--an award-winning documentary filmmaker on board, years of examine, a $100,000 grant--PBS started to flex its censorship muscle groups at the well timed (and already authorized) documentary God and cash. This used to be to be a one-hour application in regards to the U.S. Catholic bishops' pastoral letter that indicted the govt for its inhumane and shortsighted monetary guidelines. It truly did get aired (and on the very day the bishops published their letter); notwithstanding, Bullert's complicated event with PBS planted the seed for this booklet: an research of the complex interaction of public television's wishes and pursuits and their effect on self sufficient documentary movie. Getting contained in the minds of PBS programmers was once one in all Bullert's ambitions, and to do that, she immersed himself of their tradition. She uncovers a process dedicated to holding its strength elite in position, one vested in a definite, secure manner of providing perspectives and controversies that during no means may possibly threaten its corporate-funding resources. this can appear an noticeable end, yet Bullert combines scholarly precision with on-site investigative reporting to dramatize how programmers made editorial judgements. Public tv conscientiously reconstructs a few key disputes among the programmers and the independents. the 1st bankruptcy contains a political heritage of public tv, starting with President Johnson's 1967 signing of the general public Broadcasting Act, which, lamentably, didn't specify a long term investment method. Federal cuts to public broadcasting within the Reagan years foreshadowed a choice for overall defunding in 1981. unfortunately, programmers "stood on the gateway as site visitors law enforcement officials of views" in an period drastically hungry for varied programming. bankruptcy 2 examines of the main PBS retailers for autonomous social-issues documentaries: Frontline and P.O.V.. The bankruptcy that follows highlights the controversies fueled by way of specific works: darkish Circle, a documentary at the far-reaching effect of nuclear-weapons trying out; Days of Rage, which provides the Palestinian view at the Intifada; and Tongues Untied, exhibiting the lifetime of a black homosexual guy. Michael Moore's Roger and Me and Steve Talbot's The Heartbreak of the US current in-depth reviews of basic automobiles. One complete bankruptcy "not basically chronicles those ... but in addition contrasts the movies with Ken Burns's PBS sequence, that have GM as their sole company sponsor and which serve to increase the car corporation's public image." The concluding bankruptcy discusses the bigger ramifications--to the viewing public and society--of those controversies. This expos? will provide us boastful audience of PBS a jolt. now we have certainly been fed a delicately managed nutrition of arguable perspectives and "news." Herself a student, Bullert supplies an inventory of present scholarship in addition to key phrases and ideas. Public tv is illustrated with frames taken from the flicks mentioned, and it contains an exhaustive bibliography that would preserve scholars of tv and the communications regularly at no loss for extra assets. --Hollis Giammatteo

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Additional info for Public Television: Politics and the Battle over Documentary Film (Communications, Media and Culture Series)

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The independent producers are cultural authorities, too. Yet because they are largely self-appointed, they are not treated with the same respect and regard as those elite cultural authorities who have prestige media institutions behind them. They are citizens with cameras who capture stories and voices that often lie outside the mainstream and reflect the realities of a wide diversity of the American publica mix of economic and social classes, ages, and ethnic, racial, geographic, and gender identities.

And David Fanning at Frontline. All of them returned my calls. Friends and scholars who provided insightful comments on the manuscript include William Hoynes, Ralph Engelman, Diedre Boyle, Bob McChesney, Susan Ivers, Anthony Chan, Richard Kielbowicz, Michael McCann, John Campbell, Ernie Harburg, Leonard Rifas, Peter Knutson, David Tafler, and Sue Curry Jansen. Paul Loeb's remarks were especially useful in the early stage of the manuscript. Vicki Haire and Peggy Brooks helped edit the manuscript with care and charm.

The programmer sat upright in her office chair. She didn't smile as she ran through a list of her concerns about the documentary. " She didn't believe the bishops were unanimous in their support of the pastoral letter, and she questioned why we had not interviewed any ''dissenting'' bishops. She requested documentation to back up narration about a correlation between Reagan administration policies, growing economic inequality, and homelessness. As a web of tension tightened around us, she asked me to justify why the program deserved airtime on PBS.

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