Local New York station WNET has come under fire for removing PBS' documentary showcases Independent Lens and POV from its schedule. Beginning Jan. 5, reruns of PBS arts programming will air in the Mondays-at-10 timeslot instead, Current reports.
According to Sally Jo Fifer, the president of ITVS, which produces Independent Lens, WNET will move the showcases to the same timeslot on WLIW, WNET's Long Island station. Repeats of Independent Lens and POV will also air Sundays on WNET at 11/10c.
Simon Kilmurry, the executive director of POV, said that the change "does concern us. WLIW has a much shorter reach and is not where people are used to looking for us. To be honest, we're still trying to work through the implications of all this."
Tracy Droz Tragos, whose film Rich Hill is part of the upcoming season of Independent Lens, wrote an open letter to WNET's President and CEO Neal Shaprio to express her anger at Independent Lens and POV being bumped from prime time.
"I hope some day you'll have a chance to meet the boys whose lives are shown in Rich Hill.Their names are Andrew, Harley and Appachey. They say that they have often wondered whether their lives matter, if anyone is listening and cares. I have assured them through the making of my film that audiences are listening, that people care," Tragos wrote. "Your decision to silence their voices violates the trust of the Rich Hill families as well as its funders, and violates the promise of public television and mandate of Congress to give voice to those who have no power or access to power. This is one of the saddest weeks for American culture and filmmaking in recent history. Why add to the censorship?" she continued.
Stephen Segaller, WNET's programming vice president, defended the network's decision, saying that the scheduling change was made "to schedule Independent Lens and POV in time slots where the series will have a chance of getting a still larger audience." Thanks to the success of Downton Abbey, Sunday is actually the highest-rated night nationally for public television. "[W]e hope the same thing for our arts programming," he said. "It was a strategic decision that we believe will benefit both the series and independent filmmakers we so value — and we'll review this plan in six months to evaluate how its doing."
To rally for WNET to move Independent Lens and POV back to Mondays, sign theChange.org petition here.
See the complete text of Tragos' letter below: