An Announcement Regarding PBS's Review
As many of you know, the review of Breaking the Silence: Children's Stories which was supposed to be finished by December 8 has not been completed. As I explained last month, when Jan McNamara, PBS's Director of Corporate Communications, informed me of this review, I offered her the input of fathers' advocates. I explained that I couldn't see how the review could be complete without it.
McNamara didn't seem too interested at the time but to their credit she and PBS's leadership later changed their minds. The completion of the review has been delayed because of this. The input from our side was recently submitted, and we will keep you informed of what happens. Thanks to Fathers and Families for their time and efforts to put the review together.
Public Broadcasting Newspaper Does Front Page Story on Our PBS Campaign
The Public Broadcasting Newspaper Current did a front page story on our PBS campaign last week--see "Fathers' Rights Groups Call Abuse Film Unfair" (12/5/05).
Current Senior Editor Karen Everhart, the piece's author, didn't do a bad job, though her piece gave considerably more space to the film's producers and supporters than to those protesting it. However, there were a few problems.
For example, regarding our campaign's allegation that PBS portrayed a known child abuser as a hero, Everhart wrote:
"Sacks also published court documents from the Loeliger case that report instances of alleged abuse by Sadiya Alilire [Sadia Loeliger]. In the film, Fatima alludes to some of these documented injuries as minor."
These weren't allegations--they were court findings. Not only that, but they were by the clear and convincing evidence standard of the Juvenile Courts, as opposed to the preponderance of the evidence standard used in family court.
Also, regardless of what Sadia has convinced Fatima to say as part of her alienation campaign, the injuries and abuse of which Sadia Loeliger was found culpable were anything but "minor." To learn more, click here.
Everhart quotes Larry Rifkin, executive producer for Connecticut Public TV, as saying that the film's subject is "a very small universe of cases. It is very, very small in terms of batterers getting custody of children."
This is a far cry from the film's statement "All over America, battered mothers are losing custody of their children." It would have been nice if the reporter had noticed.
Everhart also quotes the film's co-producer Dominique Lasseur as saying that after making a 2001 film on domestic violence "we felt there was great denial among mothers about the effect on the kids." According to Everhart, Lasseur & Co. wanted to allow children to speak for themselves--"We set out to tell the individual stories of kids who have been victimized by the system."
This is one of the film's biggest scams--that what we're hearing is "the voice of children." No, we're hearing the voice of only one segment of children--those in what the film's producers now admit is a "very, very small" cohort of children in the custody of abusive fathers. Even this is overly charitable, since at least one of the handful of cases highlighted--the Loeliger case--does not belong to this cohort.
To write a Letter to the Editor to Current about the article, click here.
CBS Discusses Campaign, Ombudsman's Report
CBS's Vaughn Ververs discussed the protest campaign against PBS's Breaking the Silence: Children's Stories and PBS ombudsman Michael Getler's reaction to it in a December 5 piece. Ververs notes that the newly-appointed Getler started his job early because of the crisis created by the protests. Ververs cited Getler's view that the film is "flawed" and "come[s] across as a one-sided, advocacy program."
Both Getler and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's ombudsman Ken A. Bode had been critical of Breaking the Silence. To learn more, click here and here.
Fox News Covers PBS Campaign Again
Fox News columnist Wendy McElroy has written yet another column on our PBS campaign and Breaking the Silence--see PBS Continues Probe into Biased Film (FOX News, 12/6/05). In it she speculates that PBS's political partisanship could jeopardize its tax-exempt status. She notes:
"Feminist and domestic violence groups organized state-by-state campaigns around the airing of Breaking the Silence with the goal of changing legal policy.
"Liberal feminist Trish Wilson offers an account of the events in Massachusetts and in Michigan.
"If PBS participated in any of the campaigns, then it is guilty of political partisanship.
"Consider the Alaska event organized by Paige Hodson of Custody Preparation for Moms. Hodson announced, 'We have not yet chosen our date, but since we got the PBS affiliate's [KAKM] go-ahead today, we can now pick any date we want and start planning. The local PBS station has said they will help us advertise and promote our event because we will then in turn promote viewing of their screening date on 10/20.'
"The depth of PBS' [or its affiliates'] involvement in partisan politics may be difficult to judge. An internal PBS memo recently leaked and circulated on the Internet instructs PBS affiliates on how to stonewall those who call or email in protest. PBS' final review of the documentary is still pending, but the memo is hardly a propitious sign.
"I believe PBS should lose all tax privileges and funding, but you need not be a radical to want a straight answer to a simple question from a publicly accountable agency.
"Did PBS participate in a partisan push to change the law?"
Public Broadcasting Report Covers PBS Protest Campaign
Public Broadcasting Report, a biweekly newsletter covering public broadcasting and allied fields, covered our PBS campaign in its December 9 issue. They wrote:
"PBS said its programming dept. would reach 'independent conclusions' as early as next week on the controversial documentary Breaking the Silence: Children's Stories. The program got negative reviews from its in-house ombudsman and the CPB watchdog...
"Breaking the Silence, which looked at the impact of domestic violence on children and the failure of family courts to protect them, is a 'flawed presentation by PBS,' Michael Getler said in his first review as PBS ombudsman. Activist groups had attacked the program mainly for its conclusion that 75% of fathers seeking sole child custody have abused their wives or children (PBR Oct 28 p6). They said the program makes claims about child abuse and custody that are refuted by govt. reports. Getler said there's no recognition by the program's producers of opposing views. 'There was a complete absence of some of the fundamental journalistic conventions that... make a story more powerful and convincing.'
"CPB Ombudsman Ken Bode concluded 'there is no hint of balance' in Breaking the Silence. The father's point of view is ignored, as are new strategies for reducing the damage to children in custody battles, he said. 'There is no mention of the collaborative law movement in which parents and lawyers come to terms without involving the court, nor of the new joint custody living arrangements.' The producers, he said, don't seem to believe that 'an argument can be made more convincing by giving the other side a fair presentation.' The program is so slanted it raises suspicions that either the family courts of America have gone crazy or there must be another side to the story, Bode said.
"PBS started a review of the program days after it aired and well 'before any inkling' that the ombudsmen were going to evaluate it, said VP Lea Sloan. Until the review is done, which is expected soon, 'we are respectfully observant' of the ombudsmen's opinions, she said: 'PBS programming will work independently to reach conclusions about the next step.'"