Nov 12 1999

Comments from members of the Feminist Coalition on Public Broadcasting

“In their zeal to placate the Republican Congress and supplement their budget with money from right wing foundations like Olin, Scaife and Bradley, public television decision-makers haven’t just changed directions– they’ve lost the compass.

“The ‘gender wars’ series (funded by these same three foundations, and featuring their grantees) was a procession of opinions masquerading as facts, lies presented as truth, and slander disguised as journalism. For PBS management to say that these foundations are not ‘ideological’ demonstrates either ignorance or a profound lack of judgment, or both.”

–Kim Gandy, Executive Vice PresidentNational Organization for Women

“I love controversy– I am an educator, researcher and writer, and when I hear perspectives that are different from mine, but are grounded in sound research, I learn, I grow. But when we hear misinformation, nobody grows, and I get angry.

“This National Desk series was riddled with inaccuracies about gender equity research and programs, propagated by people who have been discredited repeatedly by scholars and others over the years. This program did damage to both girls and boys, diverting us from an accurate and more humane understanding of gender. In airing these distortions and inaccuracies, PBS has compromised the results of thirty years of exhausting studies undertaken by researchers such as myself on behalf of students. And that breaks my heart.”

–David SadkerSchool of Education, American University

“The National Desk series on the so-called ‘gender wars’ was a reactionary attack on the social and political advances women have made over the last century. By presenting it as impartial reporting, PBS has not only called into question public broadcasting’s basic journalistic integrity, but also raised serious doubts about the network’s commitment to serve the public it was mandated to represent. Until its lineup features pro-women’s rights shows and sources throughout, PBS isn’t representing the public at all.”

–Kathy Spillar, National CoordinatorFeminist Majority Foundation

“This year marks PBS‘s 30th anniversary. With consolidation of the media industry proceeding at a frantic pace, we are more in need than ever of public broadcasting that would ‘help us see America whole, in all its diversity,’ as PBS was mandated to do. When women, half the population, are chronically under-represented on public television, something is clearly wrong. It’s wonderful that PBS recently aired a historical film about Elizabeth Cady Stanton, but history is hardly enough. As it is, an average PBS viewer wouldn’t know that there are any feminists with a pulse in America!”

–Jennifer L. Pozner, Women’s Desk DirectorFairness & Accuracy In Reporting

“Conservatives who complain that efforts at gender equity harm boys are mired in a hopelessly superficial us-against-them, battle-between-the sexes mentality. The simplistic idea that boys lose when girls gain represents tired, outmoded thinking. Rather than hurting boys, gender equity efforts help all people live fuller, more enriching lives. Surely PBS can do a better job at broadcasting programs that help viewers negotiate the new and sometimes complicated gender terrain than what they gave us in the National Desk series on gender equity and boys’ lives.

“In particular, couldn’t the producers have found any men and boys who embrace girls and women’s strivings, who see feminism not as a threat but as a movement that seeks to improve the quality of both girls’ and boys’ lives? There are a whole lot of us out here.”

–Jackson KatzMentors in Violence Prevention

See FAIR’s extensive background information on the National Desk series & PBS:

Press release about the Feminist Coaltion on Public Broadcasting

A list of the members of the Feminist Coalition on Public Broadcasting

A FAIR fact sheet on PBS programming

Questions and answers about PBS‘s National Desk

Rally ‘Round the Boys: PBS‘s National Desk enlists in the “gender wars” (Extra!, 9-10/99)

FAIR’s archive of past research on PBS.