Are The Government Gagging PBS?

“This will go into the record books for historians and teachers and others who look back to ask, ‘What did we do?'” ~ Bill Moyers.

There’s a documentary waiting to be aired on PBS. It’s called, “Torturing Democracy”, and has been heavily sponsored and advertised by Bill Moyers on his show, “Bill Moyers Journal”. Only last week he asked viewers to look out for it, as it was due for imminent screening.

Well, it isn’t. PBS have back-listed the program until January 2009, using the excuse that “fall schedules are already set”.[1]

The program is reputed to break fresh ground in the case of America v. human rights. It examines the US torture of enemy combatants, and just who was responsible for making the decisions.

Though the 90 min work is available for viewing online at, arming voters in the upcoming election with all the information available for them to make proper decisions should be one of PBS’s major considerations.

One has to ask: has PBS succumbed to Washington’s political pressures?

Below is an email from Sparrow Chat to the local PBS station in central Illinois, regarding the matter. Any reply will be published here.

Dear Sir/Madam

Recently, WILL-TV broadcast an episode of “Bill Moyers Journal”, in which he advised viewers to be aware of a program due to be broadcast on PBS within a few weeks. That program was called, “Torturing Democracy”, a documentary written and produced by Sherry Jones.

There is no listing of this program in your schedules, and I have learned that, with the exception of WNET in New York who are broadcasting the program tonight (October 16th), PBS stations have back-listed this documentary until after a new US president and administration takes office. The excuse given is that of “set programming” – “the fall schedules are already set”. Frankly, it is common knowledge that schedules are frequently revised to take account of important issues, and I expect most Americans would agree there is no more important issue than whether the present US government has been guilty of war crimes.

While I appreciate, as a local station, you may be subject to the whims of PBS, nevertheless they do indicate on their main website that “all scheduling decisions are made locally”.

Perhaps you would inform me whether WILL-TV has plans to schedule this documentary in the near future, and if not, why not? I can then pass that information on to our readers.


R J Adams

Sparrow Chat readers may wish to make their feelings known to other PBS stations around the country.

[1] “PBS Slow to Embrace a Program on Torture” New York Times, October 15th 2008

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