3, director of the Center for Social Media, testified on May 25, 2006 before the House Committee on House Administration to raise concerns on the Smithsonian’s 30-year joint venture with Showtime Networks Inc. Aufderheide’s testimony follows an April 17, 2006 public letter that echoes similar concerns to the Smithsonian director Lawrence Small.
The pending Smithsonian arrangement is for Showtime to manage Smithsonian content for a new digital channel called Smithsonian on Demand. The little that is known about the contract is that this private-public deal would force filmmakers to work directly with Showtime to gain access to Smithsonian’s publicly-funded resources. The result could restrict the work of filmmakers, including documentarians, who need to use Smithsonian historical content and artifacts to tell stories about American history to students, researchers, and the general public.
Aufderheide’s testimony underscores the danger that the contract’s lack of transparency poses to both filmmakers and the American public. As a publicly -funded entity, the Smithsonian is obligated to provide American taxpayers full access to its resources. The current contract does not outline details on the Smithsonian’s ability to generate public media independently or provide public access to Smithsonian materials.