PBS Program About Former Secretary of State Comes Under Fire by PBS Ombudsman for Funding Ties that Create ‘Appearance of Conflict of Interest’

Jul 21, 2010  •  Post A Comment

A three-part series on PBS has come under fire from both critics and the organization’s ombudsman, who cites the series’ funding sources as creating "at least the appearance of a conflict of interest," reports the New York Times.

The series is “Turmoil and Triumph," and is about George Schultz, who was Secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan.

 Media monitoring group FAIR said seven of the series’ 13 underwriters have "close ties" to the Hoover Institution, where Shultz is a distinguished fellow, the article says. Michael Getler, the PBS ombudsman, wrote, "It doesn’t mean that funders exerted any editorial influence, but it left me feeling they didn’t have to."

Critics have said the series treats Shultz with too much reverence, with Gelter saying he found the "deification" of its subject distracting and unnecessary.

The series also doesn’t mention that Shultz served on the board of Bechtel, which was given rich rebuilding contracts during the Iraq war, and that a Bechtel family foundation was one of the show’s funders, the article adds.

PBS responded by saying that the series "fully meets our standards for editorial integrity" and that "no PBS funder is permitted to exercise editorial control over content.”

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