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PBS Documentary Takes Another Broadside for Bias

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Washington, DC – PBS ombudsman Michael Getler has charged that PBS’ Breaking the Silence failed to meet basic editorial standards of objectivity and fairness. Getler’s critique comes just days after a similar rebuke by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. [http://www.cpb.org/ombudsmen/051129bode.html]

Getler was highly critical of the fact that “there was no recognition of opposing views.” As a result, “this particular program had almost no balance,” turning it “into more of an advocacy, or point-of-view presentation.” [http://www.pbs.org/ombudsman/2005/12/introduction_and_breaking_the_silence.htmlURL CHANGED]

Breaking the Silence makes the statement that abusive fathers often gain custody of their children from their protective mothers. But Getler disputes that claim, noting that “women are also capable of being abusers” and “the vast majority of fathers do not behave badly.”

The Public Broadcasting Service documentary has been the subject of intense controversy since its release in October. To date, articles, editorials, and programs critical of the one-sided documentary have appeared in over 30 newspapers, radio shows, and other media outlets.

Boston Globe columnist Cathy Young charged the PBS show presented a “skewed and sensationalist picture” of child abuse. Fox News writer Wendy McElroy slammed the program for falsely presenting a serial child abuser as a wronged heroine, a depiction McElroy called “shameful.”

Now, almost one-third of PBS affiliates around the country have opted to not air the program. Others have aired opposing views.

This past Thursday R.A.D.A.R. – Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting – sent a letter to PBS head Pat Mitchell. The letter called upon PBS to immediately retract Breaking the Silence. The letter also requested PBS to produce a factual documentary highlighting the plight of children endangered by a court system that prevents their fathers from protecting them. [http://www.mediaradar.org/docs/RADAR_letter_to_PatMitchell12012005.pdf]

PBS is expected to announce the results of its 30-day review of the program later this week.

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