PBS is censoring Citzen Koch, a documentary about Citizens United, money in politics, and the billionaire Koch brothers. You may remember back in November, I wrote an article about an Independent Lens documentary Park Avenue. Apparently, the film made a lot of rich people very angry, including at least one of the Koch brothers. There’s even a delicious quote in Jane Mayer’s article, A Word from Our Sponsors, “They went on for twenty minutes, warning that such hateful attitudes could lead many wealthy New Yorkers to move to Florida, where the taxes are lower, and arguing that neighbors of theirs who spent millions of dollars on parties helped waiters and caterers.” How ungrateful we are not to worship the rich for their consumption!
Well, Citizen Koch was supposed to be part of the Independent Lens series too. But after Park Avenue got all the rich people upset, things changed. In particular, WNET and WGBH, the big New Jersey and Boston PBS affiliates, have Koch brothers on their boards. ITVS, the company that produces the Independent Lens series suddenly became very concerned. They wanted the title of the film changed. And they wanted the film to limit the inclusion of the Koch brothers. And they wanted more negative coverage of the Democrats put in. One of the ITVS executives put it frankly, “We live in a world where we have to be aware that people with power have power.”
Eventually, ITVS backed out of the deal. The filmmakers think this is due to pressure from PBS. I suspect that the people at ITVS are just assuming pressure from PBS. They don’t want another controversial film to damage their relationship with the network. Regardless of which is the case, it is certainly true that PBS would have had a problem with this film and it would have hurt the relationship. The filmmakers said, “It’s the very thing our film is about—public servants bowing to pressures, direct or indirect, from high-dollar donors.” Hopefully the film will eventually get a wide release and embarrass both PBS and ITVS. The “public” in PBS has been a joke for a very long time.
The trailer looks really good: