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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

PBS no longer serving the public, now run by and for the same rich bastards ruining everything else

740 Park Avenue Alex Gibney

Please read this infuriating piece by Jane Mayer in The New Yorker about how PBS kowtowed to megarich megabastard David Koch because he was one of their major financial backers (because PBS receives hardly any federal support these days). Koch really didn’t like Alex Gibney’s documentary Park Avenue: Money, Power & the American Dream — which used Koch, among other megarich megabastards, to illustrate how the .01 percent game the political system in their favor — and this resulted in PBS censoring another film, by Tia Lessin and Carl Deal, entitled Citizen Koch.

Gibney could hardly have special-ordered a better illustration of the very issue he highlights in Park Avenue. Meanwhile, Citizen Koch [official site] debuted at Sundance earlier this year but appears not to have a theatrical release in place yet.

Just to piss off David Koch, here’s a huge chunk of Park Avenue, with the rest available at a click through at the end of the video (available only to U.S. IP addresses, alas):

Watch Park Avenue: Money, Power & the American Dream on PBS. See more from Why Poverty?.

Learn more at Why Poverty?


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movie buzz
  • evan pine

    All interested should also read 740 Park by Michael Gross, the book on which the film is based.

  • Explorer51

    Get your facts straight; PBS was not involved in any of this. ITVS is an aggregator of independently produced films and provides them to PBS which feeds them to a few hundred independently run stations, one of them being WNET in NYC. PBS didn’t censor anything. If you’re going to be critical of a network that still provides some of the best TV programming around, at least do your homework and don’t ignorantly lump all these organizations together.

  • If you have some information that refutes Mayer in The New Yorker and the statements of Lessin and Deal at the Citizen Koch Web site, I’d be delighted to see it. I’m sure they would, too.

  • Explorer51

    The mistake here is interchanging the distinct and independent organizations ITVS, WNET, and PBS; this is not inside information, it’s just doing the slightest bit of googling and seeing that, though they are all related to public television, each of them make their own decisions. It is just inaccurate to label everything “PBS.” From everything I’ve read in the press, this looks like a dispute between the NYC TV station and ITVS and then one between ITVS and a couple of film makers; where does PBS, the network, come in here? In my city, the public TV station broadcast that Park Avenue show as part of the series Independent Lens; according to the PBS website, Independent Lens is part of its schedule. And according to the ITVS website, Independent Lens is one of several series it makes available for TV and online. In fact, that same website doesn’t really look like a “rich bastards'” dream, actually anything but. And I don’t really know anything about WNET except for what I read; checking their website, it looks like they refer to themselves as thirteen and they are the public TV station for New York. So all I know is what I read; and there is nothing that implicates that PBS, or even the public TV station that I watch, was involved in this. Therefore, the headline “PBS no longer serving the public” is really inaccurate; the network that still shows science and public affairs and history and drama and cultural performance and great kids’ stuff is mistakenly maligned. Again, you can look up any of this and see that the organizations involved here are all distinct from each other.

  • singlestick

    One of the messages of the New Yorker piece is that at some level, money does not have an ideology. Some of the members of the board of the New York public TV stations are undoubtedly “liberal” politically. But Koch is still one of their neighbors, and ultimately one of them. This reminds me of some of the liberals who make weak slaps at Donald Trump, and yet still invite him to their parties and want to buy the high price properties he pushes.

    And the pressure on PBS is real and getting worse. You have donations down due to the weak economy and pressure from conservatives in Congress to de-fund all public broadcasting. This, along with the decline of newspapers and other media, creates a crisis in which independent, honest media is hanging on for dear life.

    Also putting this into perspective are bickering and battles for funding that is eating away at PBS. Los Angeles station KCET was one of the charter members of PBS in 1970, and was for a time the second most watched PBS station in the country. But they severed ties with PBS a couple of years ago over the amount of fees it paid to PBS. This has resulted in a decline in quality in local public TV programming and a weakening of PBS overall. Bad times.

  • WNET in NYC is the flagship PBS station. Its decision impact the network. ITVS is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which also funds PBS. To say that ITVS, WNET, and PBS are independent from one another is disingenous — they are inextricably connected.

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