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Public broadcasting stations pick up the ball on Torturing Democracy

Last night, a number of public broadcast stations around the country began airing Torturing Democracy, a documentary exploring harsh interrogation of prisoners in U.S. custody. But Current notes that PBS has not responded to inquiries about why they refused to run the film nationally until after the current adminstration leaves office. The controversy broke on Tina Brown's new meta-media site, The Daily Beast, where Scott Horton writes:

No one who has seen this dramatic documentary is likely to buy into the "rotten apples" narrative any longer. Which may help explain why PBS appears to be suffering from acute corporate indigestion over the work. The project was first offered to PBS in September 2007, with the representation that it would be available to air after May 2008. It was completed and circulated to PBS decision makers on schedule in May of this year. Their response? According to producer Sherry Jones, PBS told her that "no time slot could be found for the documentary before January 21, 2009"—the day after George W. Bush and Dick Cheney leave office. Does that reflect concern that PBS would face retaliation from the Bush Administration for airing the program?

The documentary doesn't offer up wild-eyed partisanship. Bill Moyers calls Torturing Democracy "profoundly journalistic and profoundly affecting," adding "This one will go into the record books for historians and teachers and others who look back to ask, 'What did we do?’ " The film's site offers an annotated transcript of the 90-minute documentary, substantiated with specific citations, footnotes, and links, so reseachers can pick up where the producers left off.

But such decisions are typical for public broadcasting, made vulnerable to political pressures by its funding structures. Kudos to the stations who have chosen to run the film. Can't find a listing near you? Watch it online at torturingdemocracy.org.