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Deal lets PBS stations air Islam film

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A documentary billed as "the film PBS doesn't want you to see" will at long last get a national audience.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) announced a joint agreement yesterday to make "Islam vs. Islamists" available to the 354 Public Broadcasting Service member stations across the nation as a "stand-alone" TV program, with a little extra embellishment.

"We plan to distribute the film to any public broadcasting station that wants it. We'll package it and also produce some sort of discussion to accompany the film, and give it some context," OPB President Steve Bass told The Washington Times yesterday.

"There has been a lot of debate on whether this program needed editing. Some said yes, some no. When you're dealing with an object of controversy, it is better to let the audience draw their own conclusions," Mr. Bass said.

"As stewards of the investment in public broadcasting, this fulfills our responsibility to the taxpayer," CPB President Patricia Harrison said yesterday.

The often-disquieting 52-minute film explores the struggles of moderate American Muslims at the hands of their radical brethren and gives details about a "parallel" Islamist society that is slowly but surely developing within the U.S. borders. The film was produced by conservative columnist Frank Gaffney Jr., founder of the Center for Security Policy, filmmaker Martyn Burke and Middle East scholar Alex Alexiev.

Originally made for the six-part PBS series "America at a Crossroads," the film was intended for broadcast in early April. It never made it to the air, however. The producers, who received $675,000 in funding, said their work was shelved in "an ideological vendetta" and stifled on "political grounds."

They offered critical production notes from PBS as evidence. The lengthy notes said, among other things, that the documentary "demonized Islam" and promoted fear of Islamist organizations.

"This is a well-documented, textbook case of the abuse of taxpayer funding by elements in the public broadcasting system to advocate their agenda and ensure that people who have a different agenda don't get on the air," Mr. Gaffney said at the time. "The public ought to be allowed to see a film which PBS doesn't want them to see."

The producers have staged several private screenings for lawmakers and journalists to make their point. After the announcement yesterday, the audience could be considerably larger.

The "Oregon solution" was a gracious resolution to the situation, one broadcast source said.

The details have not been hammered out, but OPB's Mr. Bass anticipates that the documentary -- and its extra taped discussion -- will be made available nationwide in the next few months.