Is it time to cancel PBS’s Ken Burns? Nowadays, it is not easy to become a white, male, and bisexual film producer in public television networks funded by taxpayers. The documentary that Burns produced for PBS was a huge success, and his work there was well rewarded. Due to the lack of diversity behind the scenes, a panel of nearly 140 filmmakers and other professionals is attacking PBS. Their complaint is that there are too many Ken Burns.
After the Ford Foundation published a paper written by a Korean-American filmmaker, a group of filmmakers, producers, directors, executives, and programmers signed it with their support. The purpose is to complain that PBS’s programming is too dependent on Burns (“American Storyteller”
According to her signature in the essay, Grace Lee is an independent producer, director and writer who has worked in both narrative and non-fiction films. Her career is attributed to PBS. She now asks: “To what extent does PBS reflect the intended audience?” She compared Burns’s documentary time with herself on Asian Americans.
In 1967, in the midst of widespread civil strife, CPB was created by an act of Congress, “aim to expand and develop the diversity of programming that relies on local and national levels of freedom, imagination, and initiative.” PBS was established in 1969 to interconnect public television stations and distribute programs. 51 years later, when we experience another kind of social collapse and racial discrimination, to what extent does PBS reflect the original target audience?
I take this issue very seriously, because I owe much to PBS’s documentary career. In 2020, I will be the producer of Asian Americans. This is a groundbreaking series. We spent five hours telling the 150-year history from the Chinese who built the railway to the South Asians who became the target after 9/11. In contrast, the 16 hours of country music also aired in 2020, or the 13 hours of Ken Burns’s Roosevelt movie. His 2021 nominations include four hours at Ernest Hemingway, Muhammad Ali, Benjamin Franklin and Buffalo. When the bison is worth 80% of the airtime provided by Asian Americans, it will not only question the leadership of the public television station, but also who will tell these stories and why.
She cited the fact that Burns is a white male, and the fact that PBS’s reliance on his documentary has perpetuated racial and cultural inequality has caused her controversy. She criticized PBS for ignoring blacks, natives and other color film producers.
“The decades of interdependence between PBS policymakers, philanthropists and corporate funders and a white male film producer underscore the racial and cultural inequalities of the system. Broadcast time, financial support (from The audience like who?) and the marketing campaign dedicated to one person’s lens in the US market has fundamentally cut off PBS,” Grace Lee said.
PBS responded, but the response did not satisfy the 140 professionals.
In an emailed statement, a PBS spokesperson pointed out that 35% of the 200 prime-time documentaries scheduled to be broadcast this year were produced by different filmmakers. A total of 55% of outstanding BIPOC talents are produced by different filmmakers, or involve topics related to diversity, equity and inclusiveness.
“Over the past 50 years, reflecting the entire experience of the United States has always been the core of PBS’s mission and work. As the home of American documentaries, we use our national platform to expand the common views of different storytellers.” “Although we There is a strong foundation for inclusive programming, but we recognize that there is still a lot of work to be done, and we welcome continued dialogue on this vital issue.”
The team has questions.
“As the leader of the public broadcasting system, you have a responsibility to commit to open and continuous public dialogue. Questioning whether PBS will do better should not be seen as an attack, but rather a meaningful dialogue and adoption Opportunities for action and contact with BIPOC film producers as we plan our way forward.” The letter said:
“In the past ten years, how many hours of PBS non-fiction television have BIPOC filmmakers and white filmmakers directed or produced?
In the past ten years, what percentage of all expenditures on PBS non-fiction television are films directed or directed by BIPOC filmmakers?
Measured by budget, in the past ten years, among the top 25 production companies with the highest PBS content, how many companies are led by BIPOC and those led by white people?
Compared with white people, how many PBS managers (including various sites and main branches) does BIPOC have? How do these numbers compare to those ten years ago? ”
The Associated Press reported that the president and CEO of PBS said: “I am honored to have the opportunity to work with Ken Burns. His legacy is extraordinary and, as we expect, he is working for Public television stations provide a very rich program.”
President and CEO Paula Kerger was asked on Tuesday about an article by film producer Grace Lee who believes that public television stations have a deep attachment to Burns. Its series include “Civil War” and “Baseball,” which audiences are fans of color television Invisible.
“I am honored to have the opportunity to work with Ken Burns. His legacy is extraordinary, and as we expect, he will bring a very rich program to public television,” Kohlger said in collaboration with Said in a virtual question and answer by TV critics. association.
“We have created a lot of opportunities for many filmmakers,” Kegg said. Burns “directs many filmmakers who have now established careers… He firmly directs various filmmakers.”
She said that in an article in the Ford Foundation last fall, she “strongly disagreed” with Lee’s argument.
When asked in a panel of TV critics this week, Ken Burns defended the subject of the documentary. Burns said: “In terms of the meaning of each word, what is about to appear is incredibly diverse.”
Ken Burns is not known as a liberal filmmaker in the sense of Michael Moore or Spike Lee. Maybe this is why he is single. PBS has the right to choose who they want to show. Burns has decades of professional experience and deserves his praise. His documentary is very popular and has brought high ratings to PBS. Why don’t they continue to use him as a star documentary director? Ms. Li got an opportunity and even admitted that she had PBS to thank her for playing this documentary. The relationship between PBS and Burns is beneficial to both parties. Burns did not jump to the streaming service, but promised to be loyal to PBS. Compared with what Netflix or other streaming services allow, PBS has brought him creative freedom and less restraint.
Burns said: “A few years ago, I could have used streaming channels or quality cables, and then said, according to my records,’I needed 30 million U.S. dollars to start a business in Vietnam, and they would give it to me.” But they won’t give me 10 and a half years. PBS gave me 10 and a half years. They gave me six and a half years on Ernest Hemingway.
It sounds like Ms. Li will have to find her own niche in the documentary production business. Blaming race and diversity does not always work.