Wednesday, March 15, 2006

PBS Co-Chief Program Executive Defends Decision to Provide Air-Time to Genocide Deniers

WASHINGTON, DC – The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) today called a response from PBS Co-Chief Program Executive Jacoba Atlas on the ongoing controversy surrounding a misguided panel featuring Genocide Deniers “dismissive” and “unacceptable”, urging PBS to meet with ANCA representatives to resolve the growing controversy.

ANCA National Board Member and Western Region Chairman Steve Dadaian first contacted PBS’ Atlas on February 14th, asking for a meeting to discuss the largely taxpayer funded public television system’s plan to air a 30-minute roundtable 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 17th.

While no meeting date has yet been set, Atlas’ February 24th response restated PBS’ affirmation of the Armenian Genocide. “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,” stated Atlas.

The letter continued, however, justifying the distribution of the genocide denial panel, stating that “Most Americans do not understand what happened to Armenians; 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.”

Atlas dismissed comparisons to running a denial panel following a documentary on the Holocaust, stating, that “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 Genocide.”

The ANCA’s response, issued by Dadaian earlier today, takes to task PBS’ flawed arguments. Referring to Atlas’ “dismissive” response as “unacceptable,” Dadaian again asked for an opportunity to meet with Atlas and outlined the community concerns.

In reference to the argument that Turkey’s ongoing refusal to accept its past somehow forces a panel discussion featuring deniers, he asked if the same standard would be applied to a documentary on Darfur. “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?”

The ANCA letter went on to note that “earlier this year your network broadcasted ‘Hidden Turkey’ a ‘cultural and historical’ piece which presented a sanitized version of Turkey's history without 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 Armenians disappeared from those lands?”

Dadaian restated the basic tenet that “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.”

The complete texts of the PBS letter to the ANCA and the ANCA response are provided below.

Media controversy surrounding the misguided PBS decision continues to grow, with the Washington Post, New York Times, LA Times, Glendale News-Press and Agence France Presse providing continued coverage of the story. Two PBS affiliates -- Los Angeles KCET and Mountain Lake PBS in Plattsburgh, NY -- have already pledged not to give Genocide deniers air-time refusing to run the PBS round table. A New York Times report that New York’s affiliate, WNET, would run the round-table, elicited a protest in front of their headquarters on Saturday, led by NY Congressman Anthony Weiner and joined by the local Armenian National Committee and other Armenian American organizations. The protest was reported by the Associated Press and received local television coverage.

The ANCA WebMail campaign continues to grow as thousands of concerned viewers from across the U.S. send letters to PBS urging them to drop the denialist panel. Most recently, the ANCA WebMail campaign was featured on multi-platinum, Grammy-winning band “System of a Down”s website. Individuals interested in adding their voice to the campaign can do so by visiting:

An on-line petition campaign, started by Armenian Tidorts, currently has over 14,000 signatories. To participate in the petition campaign, visit:

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