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PBS's Koch Problem: How a Major Right-Wing Funder Undercut Key Films | The Nation

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Greg Mitchell

Greg Mitchell

Media, politics and culture.

PBS's Koch Problem: How a Major Right-Wing Funder Undercut Key Films


A 2011 file photo of David Koch, executive vice president of Koch Industries (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Don’t miss Jane Mayer’s feature at The New Yorker, just posted online, on little-known story of how PBS’s WNET in New York reacted in showing Alex Gibney doc Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream. The film did air, but see what surrounded it.

Problem: It partly focused on the Koch Brothers, and David Koch is a major, longtime WNET funder. So WNET bent over backwards to give him a chance to respond even before the doc aired, and also scheduled a roundtable to discuss it. Gibney: “They tried to undercut the credibility of the film, and I had no opportunity to defend it…. Why is WNET offering Mr. Koch special favors? And why did the station allow Koch to offer a critique of a film he hadn’t even seen? Money. Money talks.”

And then another documentary realating to the Kochs ran into trouble and lost funding.

But Mayer’s conclusion: “In the end, the various attempts to assuage David Koch were apparently insufficient. On Thursday, May 16th, WNET’s board of directors quietly accepted his resignation. It was the result, an insider said, of his unwillingness to back a media organization that had so unsparingly covered its sponsor.”

Gibney is the Academy Award–winning director whose WikiLeaks film opens this Friday.

Trailer for his Park Avenue, inspired by book 740 Park by my old Crawdaddy friend of nearly forty years back, Michael Gross:

Greg Mitchell’s current books are So Wrong for So Long (on media failures and Iraq war) and the wild tale of MGM and Harry Truman scuttling a 1947 anti-nuclear epic, Hollywood Bomb. His personal blog, updated several times day, is Pressing Issues.

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