Smithsonian to Offer Details on Film Deals

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The Smithsonian Institution has agreed to develop a system to document and explain its decisions about why television and film producers are granted or denied access to its collections outside of a widely criticized contract the institution entered into with Showtime Networks.

The agreement was disclosed in a report issued Friday by the Government Accountability Office that rebuked the Smithsonian for failing to provide the public with sufficient details about the Showtime contract.

Under the deal, Showtime Networks has some exclusive rights to create documentaries using the institution’s collections for broadcast on Smithsonian on Demand, a new cable channel that will be jointly owned by the two parties.

The deal attracted harsh criticism earlier this year from some documentary filmmakers and members of Congress, who questioned whether the agreement would limit the access of independent researchers to the Smithsonian’s public archives.

The Government Accountability Office reported that the Smithsonian followed its internal contracting guidelines. But, it added, the institution was negligent in waiting more than two months after the contract came into effect to publicly disclose its existence.

[Click here to read the GAO report.]

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