Ken Burns: PBS Supports Him Against Latino Complaints

Historians in the News

Public broadcasting executives are defending the right of the filmmaker Ken Burns to tell the history of World War II as he sees fit, in the face of escalating complaints and veiled threats of a boycott from Latinos who say his coming PBS documentary “The War” slights Hispanics’ contributions to the war effort.

At what participants described as an emotional meeting on Thursday in Washington, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus asked corporate sponsors of the 14 and one half-hour film — General Motors, Anheuser-Busch and Bank of America — for help in putting pressure on Mr. Burns to re-edit the film, which has been finished, to add stories of Latino contributions to the war effort.

Representative Joe Baca, the California Democrat who is chairman of the caucus, said in an interview yesterday, “We will not settle for separate but equal treatment in this documentary.” He said caucus members had told the sponsors, “We just hate to see what happened with national boycotts in the past.”

Noting that the film would not be shown until September, Mr. Baca said: “What happens between now and then will determine. If we don’t see anything, it could be a reaction.”

While many Latino groups have been active in asking for changes to the film, which Mr. Baca said he had not seen, the participation of members of Congress has raised some concerns among public broadcasters worried about improper federal interference in content. Yesterday the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the entity that administers federal funds for public broadcasting and is charged with insulating stations and programmers from outside pressure, released a statement signed by the heads of PBS, National Public Radio, the Association of Public Television Stations and the corporation. It reminded Congress of the editorial independence that was guaranteed in the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967.

comments powered by Disqus