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Smithsonian Gives Americans the Finger Over Showtime Sellout

Description smithsonian museumThe Smithsonian Institution is continuing its efforts to sneak its new 30-year exclusive contract to create programming based on its archives with the CBS Showtime Network past Congress and the American public to the horror of academic researchers, documentary filmmakers, and other networks, such as PBS. As explained by Carl Malamud at the Center for American Progress, the new video-on-demand channel called "Smithsonian On Demand" will have "the right of first refusal on any access to Smithsonian collections and staff. For example, if Ken Burns wishes to make a movie that makes "non-incidental use" of the Smithsonian archives or involves "non-incidental" access to staff, he could not offer his movie to PBS. Instead, he would have to offer it to the new venture." The Smithsonian-Showtime deal was conducted in secret, and the contract itself has not been made public. You can find a video webcast and a transcript of the May 25, 2006 Congressional oversight hearing on the deal here, which was chaired by Congressman Vernon Ehlers, a former research physicist and professor. Congress followed up with a slapdown of Smithsonian leaders over the issue by proposing significant budget cuts. Now, as both houses of Congress work to iron out differences in the 2007 budget, the Smithsonian Institution has sent lobbyists to Capitol Hill to convince lawmakers that everyone has forgotten about the inconsequential 30-year secret contract. Carl Malamud, who has made a career of placing government data online and for the public, recently emailed a call to action to increase public pressure on Congress to make the Smithsonian-Showtime contract public and to hold public hearings on the deal. It's too late to sign Malamud's petition, but it's not too late to contact your Congressman or call for the resignation of Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence Small.
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Submission Date Oct 13, 2009

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