NEW YORK (ANC/Newsday)–The New York affiliate of Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)–WNET decided not to broadcast a panel discussion featuring two known deniers of the Armenian genocide.
A spokeswoman for WNET said Tuesday’s decision had nothing to do with politics.
"It was an editorial decision," said Stella Giammasi–vice president and director of communications of WNET.
After screening the discussion–Giammasi said–WNET officials determined it "did not add anything to the documentary."
WNET’s decision–widely reported by the Associated Press and local media outlets–followed a February 25 press conference in front of WNET’s offices by Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY) calling attention to the profound moral issues involved in providing Genocide deniers with a national television audience. The ANC-NY took part in the press conference along with Armenian American leaders from throughout the New York metropolitan area.
"First and foremost–we want to thank Congressman Anthony Weiner for demonstrating such proactive leadership in joining with Armenian Americans in front of WNET this past Saturday to call attention to this important issue," said Tony Vartanian–Chairman of ANC-NY. "He demonstrated–once again–what a true friend he is to the Armenian people and to the cause of international human rights."
"We also applaud WNET’s decision to uphold their excellent editorial standards by not airing a panel discussion that would have delivered a major television audience for the patently false and hateful version of history being peddled by deniers of the Armenian genocide," said Vartanian. "Andrew Goldberg’s documentary on the Armenian genocide is an historically sound work that can clearly stand on its own. WNET was correct not to tarnish either this piece or its own reputation broadcasting this ill-advised and deeply flawed panel discussion."
In a statement issued immediately after the WNET decision–Weiner noted–"I am pleased that WNET has now canceled plans to follow their historically accurate program with a panel discussion including some who deny that the Genocide took place. They clearly understand that featuring these voices would have been like following a program about geography with a panel including an ‘expert’ who argued the earth was flat."
Commenting on the regional and national implications of WNET’s decision–Armenian National Committee of America – Eastern Region Executive Director Doug Geogerian noted that–"It is certainly reassuring that such a major PBS affiliate has prioritized editorial standards–journalistic integrity–and its public trust." He added that–WNET this week set an example–which we hope its parent–PBS–will have the wisdom to follow–very simply–do not promote the deceptive and hateful agenda of those who deny genocide."
Despite community-wide letter writing and petition campaigns to PBS headquarters–PBS co-chief Program Executive Jacoba Atlas defended their decision to air the denialist panel in a letter to the ANCA issued on February 24. WNET has added its name to the growing list of PBS stations refusing to run the misguided round-table discussion–including those located in Fresno–CA; Los Angeles–CA; Orange County–CA; Mountain Lakes–NY; and Miami–FL.