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September 08, 1989 - Image 110

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-09-08

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

BEHIND THE HEADLINES t""

Did PBS Err
In Airing 'Rage'?

at

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ilfl

PRIM' SFPTFMRFR R 1989

Special to The Jewish News

T

he furor over the pro-
Palestinian film, Days
of Rage, which was
broadcast on the Pub-
lic Broadcasting System
Wednesday evening, has left
the network in the peculiar
position of being a stalwart
defender against censorship,
but perceived as possibly com-
promising its own policy
regarding funding of in-
dependently produced pro-
gramming that it airs.
The latest capstone on the
checkered history of the film
came last week when the New
Republic published an in-
vestigatory article by Steven
Emerson, a senior editor at
U.S. News and World Report.
Emerson charged that Jo
Franklin-Trout, the pro-
ducer/director/writer of Days
of Rage, had sold the distribu-
tion rights to the film in May
1988 to the pro-Arab Arab-
American Cultural Founda-
tion in Washington. The foun-
dation director, Hisham
Sharabi, a professor at
Georgetown University, told
Emerson that the organiza-
tion had purchased all rights
to the film after it had been
aired by PBS.
Through this mechanism,
charged Emerson, "Franklin-
Trout could claim technically
that she funded the • film
herself, and any money that
was generated after its broad-
cast would not have to be
disclosed."
The foundation, wrote
Emerson, raised most of the
money for this agreement
with Franklin-Trout in
Kuwait, and from_ private
donors. "After the agree-
ment," he said, "Franklin-
Trout was elected to the foun-
dation's board of directors."
This sale, alleged Emerson,
had_helped finance the pro-
duction of the $180,000 film.
If true, this could violate PBS
policy which bars under-
writing "which could lead the
public to conclude that the
program has been influenced
by the funder."
In response to the New
Republic article, PBS con-
ducted its own last-minute in-
vestigation of the funding of
Days of Rage. Although it con-
cluded that the film had
largely been funded by
Franklin-Trout, it did add a
notice before and after the
broadcast of Days of Rage ad-
vising that the film had been
the subject of intense allega-
tions which, to date, had

yielded no firm credence.
As Mary Jane McKinven,
director of national press rela-
tions for PBS said, "Our
viewers are served by more in-
formation, not less."

Two days after the New
Republic article surfaced,
Franklin-Trout told the New
York Times that she had been
been on the board of the Arab-
American Cultural Founda-
tion for the last two years.
But she maintained that she
had financed Days of Rage
with her own money raised
from the sale of videocasset-
tes of previous films she had
produced and that her rela-
tionship with the foundation
did not compromise her in-
dependence as a filmmaker.

The New Republic article
also charged that:

• Franklin-Trout had false-
ly claimed that she had had
"repeated confrontations"
with Israeli authorities while
filming Days of Rage. She said
that soldiers had "brutally"
attempted to stop her filming,
had arrested her and had con-
fiscated her film.
Three members of Franklin-
Trout's production crew told
Emerson that none of this
had occurred.

• As a senior Washington
producer
of
the
"MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour"
from 1975 to 1980, she had
developed "an extraordinari-
ly close relationship with the
Saudis," according to a former
associate on the program. In
1980, while still on the show's
staff, she had relayed Saudi
anger to PBS over the show-
ing of Death of a Frincess,
which documented the
beheading of a Saudi princess
for adultery.

-

• Franklin-Trout produced
a three-part documentary for
PBS about Saudi Arabia that
was aired in 1982. This serv-
ed, in effect, as PBS' "counter-
weight" to the airing of Death
of a Princess, and had been
funded by four American
multinational companies that
annually did billions of
dollars of trade with Saudi
Arabia. In 1981, according to
Emerson, each of these firms
had lobbied for the sale of the
advanced radar surveillance
planes, the AWACS, to the
Saudis.
"PBS officials claim they
were unaware at the time of
the extent of the relationship
between the show's sponsors
and its subject," writes
Emerson.

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