CMA Fights Secret Smithsonian/Showtime Deal

Posted by Scott - September 28, 2006 (entry 430)

This week, along with over 200 organizations, filmmakers, institutions, scholars, and citizens, Chicago Media Action signed a joint letter (click here) to the head of the Smithsonian Institution to express concern over its new, secret (shhhh!) commercial arrangement with Showtime Networks.

CMA is among good company in the letter! That's me, Scott Sanders, (not the other fine CMA blogger), listed representing Chicago Media Action right there with "Michael Moore Filmmaker", "Michael Gorman President American Library Association", and even "Vinton Cerf Internet Pioneer".

The deal, a joint venture called Smithsonian Networks, assigns managing partner Showtime the right of first refusal (control of distribution) on any films that make more than "incidental" use of the Smithsonian collections or for interviews with Smithsonian staff. A Freedom of Information Act request to force disclosure of the contract's specifics is also in the works.

Today's powerful cultural and educational privatization locomotive got its first real head of steam a few mileposts back - when the Reagan administration loosened the commercial funding rules for PBS. "Public" broadcasting is definitely not the only educational or cultural institution that is in need of better funding and a sharper focus on the will and interests of the people. So unless and until we decide together to halt and reverse this dangerous engine, the forces of privatization will severely harm or destroy the rest of the public sphere, taking what remains of our democracy along with it.

Watch a video announcement of the action featuring filmmaker Ken Burns and the Center for American Progress here and an announcement Q & A here.

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This entry was posted by Scott Sanders, a co-founder to date of seven Chicago area media and democracy activist groups.
Sanders has worked for long stretches in social science research, in the creation of video documentaries, as a librarian, and also in movie theater management.
You can link to Scott's combined curriculum vitae, timeline, and resume here.



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