As Congress debates federal funding for public TV and radio, Mary Grabar has written a column for Pajamas Media about how telling the truth about the Castro regime in Cuba is not an assignment that the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) has wanted to take on.
She focuses on how Agustin Blazquez, a Cuban exile, ran into a series of roadblocks from PBS and its parent, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), when he requested funding for films on life under the Castro dictatorship and Castro’s murderous accomplice Che Guevara. Not only did public TV refuse to fund the anti-communist films, public broadcasting would not consider airing them.
His new documentary, “Che: The Other Side of an Icon,” also got the label “too hot” for public TV. It is a response to what Blazquez calls “the pro-Che propaganda in the popular press.” He explains, “It profiles the life of the man killed in Bolivia, as well as ‘Che,’ the icon, who lives on today. It presents the real man behind the myth, his legacy and why he has become so popular among the youth, revolutionaries and terrorists of the world. It explores the dangers of believing in Che’s carefully constructed fake public image.”
The film includes interviews with people who worked directly with Che, knew his family in Argentina and Havana, and who were knowledgeable about his personal background and philosophy. It documents how Che was not a hero but a sadistic killer.
Grabar’s column takes a look at the film and examines how Blazquez faced opposition from public TV to telling the truth about Castro’s communist revolution. She reports, “He learned that grants and prizes for documentaries in his series ‘Covering Cuba’ would not be forthcoming. The latest, and seventh, titled “Che: The Other Side of an Icon,” was produced on a budget of $14,000. Only about $4,000 of that was from a non-profit that he had started himself. He had submitted a more typical budget of $494,000 to CPB-PBS (Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Public Broadcasting System). Blazquez had no success with the publicly supported organization, nor did he with the taxpayer-supported American Film Institute in his other projects. In fact, he could not even get an airing on POV (Point of View), the program created by PBS specifically for the purpose of airing ‘controversial’ films.”
Blazquez provided me with some additional details, saying about the Che film offering, “I mailed the 104-page proposal to CPB on Monday, April 2, 2007. On Tuesday, May 8, 2007, John Prizer from CPB called me about 6:35 p.m. to notify me that they rejected my project. The next day Prizer talked to my proposal advisor and told him, ‘PBS won’t do a project like that.’”
Grabar describes the interference he gets on college campuses. “Dead silence is what mostly greeted Blazquez when he contacted over 100 campuses for the screening of his first film,” she says. “Subtle impediments in the form of last-minute room changes and announcements torn off walls were placed in his path at the two campuses where he did manage to get permission to air his documentary.”
Disgusted by the pro-Castro bias of public TV, Blazquez has some advice, which is pertinent since taxpayer funding for public TV and radio is now a big issue on Capitol Hill. “My advice to the American public in general is not to donate a penny” to the CPB or PBS, he says, and “to demand all taxpayer funds be denied” to public broadcasting.