Monday, April 23, 2007

PBS in Islamist Wonderland

Last Wednesday, PBS airedThe Muslim Americans,” a documentary film that had been heavily promoted as one of the highlights of “Crossroads,” the station’s new 11-part series about post-9/11 America. Given its subject of Islam in America and the fact that it is produced by two icons of American public television, series host and moderator Robin McNeil and the PBS NewsHour, interest in the documentary was understandably high.

For me, the documentary was of additional interest. I am the co-executive producer (alongside director Martyn Burke and Frank Gaffney) of “Islam vs. Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Center,” a film PBS spiked. In my view, “The Muslim Americans” was commissioned and funded outside of the rigorous “Crossroads” competition for the specific objective of replacing our film. Robin McNeil, as a key decision maker for “Crossroads,” was apparently granted a sweetheart deal to produce his own film behind the scenes. Quite apart from this personal interest, I was keenly interested to see what American Islam would look like through PBS’s lens. What I found was public broadcasting at its worst.

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