Thank you Meghan Stabler for the work that you do to advance basic human rights for all !!
A major documentary about the American LGBT experience ("OUT in America") will premiere nationally this week. Unfortunately here in Austin, the most liberal of cities in Texas, maybe the only liberal city in Texas, the local PBS station, KLRU, is not scheduled to air it.
Bil Browning, publisher of BILERICO recently published the following review.
After researching the monthly schedule for KLRU I noticed that while over 80% of the national PBS Stations are planning to run the documentary, KLRU has no plans. The majority of airings will take place to coincide with Pride month, June. I contacted the programming department and received the following reply, "thanks ... for inquiring about OUT in America. Currently our programming department said it's not scheduled but they are considering it. Here's a list of other programs this month to celebrate Gay and Lesbian Pride Month."
That doesn't cut it for me. 'OUT in America' is a collection of our voices airing the struggle for equality in love, relationships, work and transition. The other programming, while offering a repeat documentary on the history of Stonewall and a new documentary called 'Two Spirits' about the Navaho Indian traditions and the brutal slaying of Fred Martinez a Navaho 'two spirit' transgender youth, could still be bolstered by the scheduling of 'Out in America.'
'OUT in America' coincides with Pride month and is a deeply moving and often humorous documentary, viewers will get a glimpse of awakenings, first crushes, unlikely soul mates, intimacy and liberation. The film's subjects are all united in their shared experiences of self-discovery, coming out, pride and love as well as a triumph over adversity and a true sense of belonging. Against the backdrop of historical events, each also traces their own hopes, struggles, influences and contributions towards advancements in equality and broad social change. This is a deeply moving documentary at times. Advance screening recommendations are that you "have a ton of tissues handy when they hit the HIV/AIDS years," and that "You'll cry celebrating how far we've come, and still to go." Well sorry Austin, but right now, you won't see it.
I talked further with the programming department of KLRU. There answer was that this is a "pledge drive" program and they will not be running it. They have recorded it for potential future use, but as this was a pledge program they would not be running it in the near term. I wasn't satisfied and neither should you be.
So I then talked with Maria Rodriguez, Sr. VP - Broadcasting at KLRU-TV (Beyondmrodriguez@klru.org) 512 475 9029. She confirmed what I had been told earlier that 'OUT in America' had been offered by PBS National as a documentary for use during pledge drives, and that due to a shorter than normal pledge drive in June, KLRU had decided not to air the program. She could not confirm a date or a month that the documentary would be aired but assured me that some time in the year it would be. I informed her that the content of this documentary was about the lives and personal stories as told by our voices vs. a historical narrative on topics like Stonewall. But she said they were airing Stonewall Uprising and two others for the GLBT community and that KLRU felt that was all that would be done.
Unfortunately a new documentary that does a beautiful job of capturing the richness and complexity of what it means to be LGBT at this particular moment in American history, and does so in an warm, humorous and genuine way, fails to get air time in Austin.
Andrew Goldberg, the Emmy award-winning director of 'OUT in America' said of the documentary that this, "is a more realistic portrait of LGBT life than almost anything seen on TV before,” says Goldberg. “So often, media coverage of LGBT life in America is polarizing or exploitative of controversy and homophobia, or alternately LGBT individuals are presented as caricatures of a stereotype. OUT in America however focuses on empowerment, diversity and relationships.”
This evening I talked with Andy Lane, the Executive Director of the Johnson Family Foundation who served as an editorial adviser for the project and we understand that PBS offers its affiliates three kinds of programming: required; scheduled but not required; and pledge use. It does seem that 'OUT in America' was a pledge use but that not all affiliates do pledge drives at the same time, and they vary in length. Two of the major factors that apparently inform whether or not a program is selected for use during a pledge drive are 1) whether or not people think it will bring in $$; 2) whether or not people think it could cause blow-back." His final comment to me was, "I am not surprised that Stonewall Uprising was viewed as the safer choice. This stinks."
And it does stink.
What do you think? Let me know, and more importantly, let KLRU and Maria Rodriguez SVP of Programming at KLRU (contact information above) know ASAP. Please post any feedback you get so that we can come together as a community in action and message.