Ken Burns, Emily Rooney, PBS discussed on Here & Now

Here & Now


She's planning to put in a vase to make a mushroom bouquet for her kitchen table for here now. I'm sarah gibson. Pbs is reacting to an open letter signed by a coalition of filmmakers accusing the network of failing to represent the diversity of the public it serves specifically the space and funding that white documentary director. Ken burns takes. They say at the expense of more diverse creators in response. Pbs end burns last week. Pledged millions of dollars in programming to projects by people of color. But signers of the letter saying that's not enough let's hear what. Npr tv critic. Eric dagens things eric harley. And you know on a local level this past weekend. this reverberated. Gbh tv here in. Boston canceled their popular program. Beat the press the host. Emily rooney who can be as blunt as her late. Dad andy rooney said when this letter of complaint came out. It's resentment that a white guy is getting all the time and then she said well. She hadn't seen the work of one of the letter signers of the person who produced the series asian-americans. Emily rooney said there's a possibility it wasn't as good as the work of ken burns now. She later apologized profusely. But that could not have helped. Well you know. I think in an odd way. That desktop sums up the complaints. That a lot of filmmakers of color have about how their work is regarded within the public television system. There are a select group of filmmakers of color. Whose work gets a lot of attention. You think about someone like stanley nelson who did freedom riders war sam pollard. Who did the american masters about. Sammy davis junior. But i think there's a whole cadre of mid level filmmakers people who are Have had some success. Grisly one of the producers of asian americans who spoke up and then joined this group beyond inclusion. Which is a coalition of filmmakers led by black indigenous and people of color who gathered something like seven hundred signatures now of people who are concerned that makers light ken burns are getting a level of financial support and a level of attention. Pbs that may be mid level filmmakers of color. Haven't gotten and that's really what they're talking about. This is not just about spotlighting ken burns. He's just an example of a larger issue. That i think actually emily's comments may have reflected and he seems to know that he and pbs. We said address this head on at a press conference last week. And here's what he said when he was asked if he takes umbrage of being considered a poster boy of white producer privilege. Let's listen no. This comes from an incredibly important and true impulse and we have to honor it my network. The greatest network ever has addressed it and is continuing to address it. They set out some guidelines that producers of all kinds have to think about now and we accept them readily. And we've always done that. Well so you hear him saying no he thinks is a bigger problem. But also my network you know and white filmmakers have complained about. Ken burns seeming ownership of public television funds. What do you make of this. And and what exactly is. Pbs pledging to do well. That's complicated pbs. During a series of press conferences ruled out several initiatives. They're working with the corporation for public broadcasting to give five point five million dollars to firelight media which is the a company that was co founded by stanley nelson. They have several mentoring programs. And that's going to address mentoring. Filmmakers of color they've also given some money to pbs digital studios to create short form videos. That will showcase the work of filmmakers of color but what folks beyond inclusion are saying. Is that a. It's hard to tell whether these initiatives will actually address what i just talked about which is sort of mid level documentarian who've had some success but are having a hard time getting funding and having a hard time getting the level of support that maybe they think they deserve and the other thing is they want data. They want to know how much funding white filmmakers are getting versus people of color comedy hours. They're being featured. Pbs has provided some figures but it's only provided figures about its own staff and productions that it controls and it does business with a lot of independent producers. and so what. Pbs said is. We're going to ask those people to give us that information. And we're going to require them to have diversity plans when they pitch us new product. Pbs not sure that it's gonna make that level of information public and beyond inclusion as saying what you don't give us the ability to really look at how diverse every production is. Can we really address or even identify problems. And by the way. Ken burns obviously has many many fans and supporters. Who would say look. He got americans to take a look at things. They might never have looked at aspects of history. But as you say this is about extending funds to two other filmmakers and also you know taking a look at how projects are put together behind the scenes. How diverse are they there. Well this this is something that we always run into. When we talk about diversity issues you know there are people of goodwill good spirit who take action but when those actions may fall short or when they deserve to be examined then people turn around and say well. Why are you questioning. It and people of color shouldn't feel like there's some how overstepping just by saying. Hey can you give us some data and fans of ken burns shouldn't feel threatened because there are people out there saying hey you know maybe they are filmmakers of color who deserve to get the same level of attention that he does. Npr tv critic. Eric duggan's thank you. Thank you and here. Now is a production of npr and w. r. I'm robin young scott. Tong it's here now..

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