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Liberals criticize PBS for refusing to distribute program on human rights

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Liberals criticize PBS for refusing to distribute program on human rights 09/20/1994 NEW YORK -- Public Broadcasting Service, most often…

NEW YORK — Public Broadcasting Service, most often a target of conservative criticism, is being challenged by liberals for its continuing refusal to nationally distribute “Rights & Wrongs,” a half-hour weekly news program about human rights, according to the Associated Press.

Members of Congress are also on the bandwagon of criticism. Seven members of the Human Rights Caucus wrote a letter to PBS complaining that “Rights & Wrongs” was not available on WETA, the largest PBS affiliate in the Washington area. A second letter from 32 members of the Black Congressional Caucus to PBS President Ervin S. Duggan urged him to “reconsider funding and distribution options for the program.”

In response, Duggan noted that “Rights & Wrongs” does air in Washington on PBS affiliate WHMM. He also insisted that censorship is not taking place. The show simply lost in the competition for national distribution by PBS.

“Rights & Wrongs” is made by Globalvision, the New York-based team of Rory O’Connor and Danny Schecter who won 1990 Emmy and Polk awards for their series “South Africa Now,” which PBS also declined to air.

“The argument has gone beyond us, beyond the program,” O’Connor told AP “It’s really about whether human rights should be on PBS on a regular basis, and they say no. PBS is caught in between the right and the left, and they’re acting out of fear.”

Jennifer Lawson, PBS executive vice president of national programming, said she was misquoted by AP as saying human rights is an “insufficient organizing principle” for a PBS series.

“There is no question that we believe in the importance of human rights,” said Lawson. “The basic difference is we don’t believe ‘Rights & Wrongs’ is as strong a show as its producers think it is. Our program policy has not change at all. We have no intention of backing away from contentious topics.”

The strongest liberal criticism comes from The Coalition vs. PBS Censorship, a Santa Monica-based organization of “filmmakers, viewers and concerned citizens dedicated to ending content-based censorship at PBS.” The coalition’s first successful campaign was reversing the PBS refusal to air the 1990 Oscar-nominated documentary “Building Bombs.”

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