Wednesday, December 14, 2005

PBS acknowledges a biased program

The Mary Kay Ash Foundation gave $500k to make “Breaking the Silence: Children’s Stories”, which was then shown on PBS TV and criticized here.

CPB ombudsman says:
My conclusion after viewing and reviewing the program and checking various web sites cited by critics is that there is no hint of balance in Breaking the Silence. The father's point of view is ignored as are new strategies for lessening the damage to children in custody battles. There is no mention of the collaborative law movement in which parents and lawyers come to terms without involving the court, nor of the new joint custody living arrangements.

The producers apparently do not subscribe to the idea that an argument can be made more convincing by giving the other side a fair presentation. To be sure, one comes away from viewing the program with the feeling that custody fights are a special hell, legally, emotionally, psychologically. But this broadcast is so slanted as to raise suspicions that either the family courts of America have gone crazy or there must be another side to the story.
The family courts have gone crazy, but not as described on the show.

The PBS ombudsman says:
The critics challenged the program on many counts, including a lack of balance and objectivity that they claimed violates PBS editorial standards, a lack of evidence to back up assertions on the program, the complete absence of fathers and their perspective in the documentary, failure to cite statistics that critics say contradict the thrust of the program, the promotion of negative stereotypes that work against fathers in custody disputes, and some very specific challenges about one case, in particular, that was discussed in the film.

There were also strong objections to the portrayal of what is called "Parental Alienation Syndrome" as "junk science" on the program. The original press release about the program said that: "Despite being discredited by the American Psychological Association and similar organizations, PAS continues to be used in family courts as a defense for why a child is rejecting the father." This prompted the Association to issue a statement that it "does not have an official position on parental alienation syndrome-pro or con. The Connecticut Public Television press release is incorrect."
He promises a more complete report in "early December".

These ombudsmen are understating the problems with the PBS program. The show was a propaganda show for separating fathers from their children, based on a theory of child abuse risk. But most child abuse comes from mothers, step-fathers, and boyfriends, not fathers.

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