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      World Media Reports Outrage Of 10,000 Viewers Against PBS

World Media Reports Outrage Of 10,000 Viewers Against PBS   23/02/2006

World Media Reports Outrage Of 10,000 Viewers Against PBS

By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier

The controversy over the planned airing by PBS of an offensive panel discussion on the Armenian Genocide has become a major national and international issue. Here are the key developments of the past few days:

-- The Washington Post published on Feb. 16, a lengthy article titled: "PBS Panel on Armenian Genocide Stirs Protest." The article reported that more than 6,000 people (as of Feb. 16) had signed an online petition demanding the cancellation of the panel discussion, "making it one of the largest organized protests of a PBS program." Subsequently, the Los Angeles Times and several other newspapers reprinted the Washington Post article.

-- The AFP (French Press Agency) wire service carried on Feb. 17 a major story titled: "Armenian-Americans Outraged by Panel Discussion on Genocide."

--The Broadcasting & Cable magazine published on Feb. 16 an article titled: "PBS Gets Complaints about Genocide Panel." It stated that, as of last week, PBS had received 163 e-mails complaining about the panel discussion.

-- The Turkish newspaper Milliyet covered the PBS controversy in its Feb. 17 issue.

-- The Armenian National Committee of America issued a press release on Feb. 15 calling on PBS to cancel the panel discussion and "not to provide national television platform for Armenian Genocide deniers." In addition, in a letter addressed to Jacoba Atlas, Senior Vice President of PBS Programming, the ANCA requested a meeting with her to discuss the Armenian community’s concerns.

-- The online petition urging PBS to cancel the panel discussion, which was established on Feb. 9, has now been signed by well over 10,000 people!

-- The Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA), a coalition of more than 60 Turkish organizations, issued its own copycat petition, mimicking the Armenian one. It claims to have more than 8,000 names, a large percentage of which are fake! Even Elvis is listed as having signed the Turkish petition!

-- Professors Taner Akcam and Peter Balakian, who participated in the pre-taped panel discussion supporting the facts of the Armenian Genocide, wrote lengthy reports last week explaining that they were basically blackmailed by Jacoba Atlas who told them that without the panel discussion, PBS would not air the Armenian Genocide documentary. Saying that he was "backed into a corner" by PBS, Balakian urged viewers to ask the PBS stations "not to run the post-show."

-- Lea Sloan, the Vice President of Media Relations at PBS, provided in writing on Feb. 17 the following official reaction to my two previous columns: "PBS, like most historians, news organizations and world courts, accepts that the genocide took place. That is why we scheduled the documentary to air and that is what the film’s title asserts. The intent of the panel is to explore the question of how historians can come to such divergent conclusions about these events."

In a similar reaction, the Washington Post quoted Jacoba Atlas as saying, "while we believe [the genocide] is settled history … you still get dissenters …. This remains a contentious piece of history. There are just questions around it." Both Sloan and Atlas are contradicting themselves by first saying that the Armenian Genocide is recognized by "most historians, news organizations and world courts," and that it is "settled history," and then turning around and calling it "a contentious piece of history." This makes no sense, whatsoever!

Given the fact that PBS is still planning to go ahead and air this offensive panel discussion, I suggest the following immediate steps:

1. Please sign the online petition:

2. http://www.petitiononline.com/mod_perl/signed.cgi?pbspanel and forward it to as many people as possible. More than 10,000 people have already signed it. Send e-mails to Jacoba Atlas at

3. Jatlas@pbs.org urging her not to provide air time to genocide deniers. Ask Armenian organizations to urge their members to sign the petition and send e-mails to Jacoba Atlas.

4. Ask your Member of Congress to send a letter to PBS demanding that the panel discussion be cancelled.

5. Ask the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues (close to 150 members of Congress) to send a collective statement to PBS opposing its planned airing of the panel discussion.

6. Since the individual PBS stations are the ones that decide whether to air the panel discussion or not, contact your local PBS station and urge them not to broadcast the post-show. To find your local PBS station, go to

www.pbs.org/stationfinder, enter your zip code and click next. When you see the logo of your local station, click next again. This would give you the phone/fax numbers as well as mail and e-mail addresses of your local station.

 


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