WASHINGTON–DC–The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) called Tuesday a response from PBS on the ongoing controversy surrounding a panel featuring Genocide deniers "dismissive" and "unacceptable."
PBS Co-Chief Program Executive Jacoba Atlas responded to the ANCA with a letter in which she reiterated PBS’s affirmation of the Armenian genocide–but justified the distribution of a 30-minute round-table discussion featuring known Genocide deniers Justin McCarthy and Omer Turan. The panel would follow a one-hour documentary–titled [The Armenian Genocide,] by Andrew Goldberg of Two Cats Productions–to be made available to PBS affiliates nationwide on April 17.
Several PBS affiliates–including those located in New York–NY–Fresno–CA; Los Angeles–CA; Orange County–CA; Mountain Lakes–NY; and Miami–FL–have already pledged not to give Genocide deniers air-time–refusing to run the panel discussion.
ANCA is continuing its WebMail campaign as thousands of concerned viewers from across the US send letters to PBS urging them to drop the denialist panel. Individuals interested in adding their voice to the campaign can do so by visiting: capwiz.com/anca/issues/alert/?alertid=8486526&type=CU
An on-line petition campaign–started by Armenian Tidorts–currently has over 14,000 signatories. To participate in the petition campaign–visit: www.petitiononline.com/pbspanel/petition.html
The complete texts of the PBS letter to the ANCA and the ANCA response are provided below.
ANCA Response to PBS Co-Chief Program Executive Jacoba Atlas
Co-Chief Program Executive
Public Broadcasting Service
5750 Wilshire Boulevard–Suite 561
Los Angeles–CA 90036
Dear Ms. Atlas:
The Armenian National Committee of America finds your dismissive letter of February 24–2006 unacceptable–and it is very unfortunate that you have chosen to refuse a face-to-face meeting on this matter to hear our point of view.
In your letter you acknowledge that PBS recognizes the Armenian Genocide. Yet your decision to embark upon and defend the airing of the panel of genocide deniers immediately following a documentary on the Armenian Genocide baffles logic and shows great insensitivity to this and all crimes against humanity. Producing and distributing this panel of historical revisionists and genocide deniers–in the name of furthering discussion–is irresponsible journalism at its best and the further victimization of the victims of the Genocide at its worst. There can be no tolerance for giving a national stage to those who choose to deny the Armenian Genocide for the sake of political expediency just as there would be no tolerance to providing a forum to those who would deny the Holocaust or any such horrific crime.
Following the logic of your decision–the next time Frontline does a documentary on Darfur–will you be providing the Sudanese government or its surrogates a forum to deny that what is being committed there is genocide? You produced a documentary called "Survivors of the Holocaust" with Steven Spielberg. Would you or Mr. Spielberg have found it acceptable if PBS were to host a panel immediately following the program with the likes of right-wing British historian David Irving who just last week was convicted in Austria of denying the Holocaust? Are you now setting a policy that anytime a government refutes the facts of a documentary you will provide a follow up panel? You will recall that earlier this year your network broadcasted "Hidden Turkey" a "cultural and historical" piece which presented a sanitized version of Turkey’s history without even once mentioning the Armenian Genocide or even the presence of the Armenian people on those lands for over 2,500 years until 1915. Why then–being a network which knows the truth–did you not follow that show with a panel discussing the Armenian Genocide and how 1.5 million Armenia’s disappeared from those lands?
Over the years–PBS had earned a reputation for journalistic integrity. Please do not squander that reputation now with a false sense of balance and double standards. Once again–the Armenian National Committee of America requests a meeting with you to further discuss this issue which is of great concern to not only the American Armenian community but all those who tirelessly work to prevent crimes of genocide around the world.
Steven J. Dadaian
ANCA Board Member
Cc: Paula Kerger–PBS President
Mary G. Bitterman–PBS Board of Directors Chairwoman
Michael Getler–PBS Ombudsman
PBS Co-Chief Program Executive Jacoba Atlas Letter to ANCA National Board Member Steve Dadaian
Steven J. Dadaian
ANCA Board Member
Armenian National Committee of America
104 N. Belmont Street–Suite 200
Dear Mr. Dadaian,
Thank you for contacting PBS about the documentary THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE and the follow-up panel discussion.
We have reviewed your letter as well as those from many other viewers. We appreciate hearing your position on the issues that you’ve raised. Implicit in PBS’ decision to accept THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE for distribution is its recognition that the overwhelming majority of historians and news organizations affirm that the genocide took place.
Why then allow any airtime for discussion? You and others have likened our decision to following a documentary on the genocide of Jews during WWII with a panel of Holocaust deniers. With all due respect–the comparison is not entirely analogous. Germany has fully accepted responsibility for the Holocaust–paid reparations–made apologies–met with survivors–and teaches about it in its schools. As you know–this is not the case with the Armenian Genocde. Turkey’s official position on this chapter of history is a key part of the controversy that the documentary and the panel discussion see to examine.
An important element of PBS’ public service mission is to serve as a place where dialogue and debate can help to illuminate issues. Most Americans do not understand what happened to Armenia’s; too often news organizations have ignored this part of world history. We strongly believe in the power of truth to come through in debate. We strongly believe in the ability of the American public to discern that truth.
We hope you will understand our thinking even as you disagree with our decision to provide this panel to our member stations.
This was a decision not made by any one person at PBS–but an editorial team. We fully recognize how difficult this decision must be for many who have suffered to accept–but we hope that you will respect public television’s position on the value of thoughtful discussion.
Co-Chief Program Executive