Thursday, December 01, 2005

CPB Ombudsmen Report on "Breaking the Silence"

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting Ombudsmen has now weighed in on "Breaking the Silence."

CPB

Excerpts:

The experts provided by Lasseur/Tatge debunk PAS as "junk science." At one point the film states that PAS "has been thoroughly debunked by the American Psychological Association." Contacted for verification by a number of critics and viewers, the APA's communications director stated:

"The American Psychological Association does not have an official position on parental alienation syndrome--pro or con."

In this case it appears that Lasseur/Tatge plainly got it wrong. In a statement released to their website, the producers now say something quite different than they did in the film:

"We do not make the assertion that the phenomenon of alienation does not exist, simply that PAS seems to be wrongly used as scientific proof to justify taking children away from a protective parent."

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.

One critic who reached CPB cited reports that the Mary Kay Ash Foundation is providing a stipend so that every battered women's organization in the country can put on private screenings of this film for their local judges and legislators. If so, PBS may find it has been the launching pad for a very partisan effort to drive public policy and law.

PBS says it has received around 4,000 letters, calls and e-mails about Breaking the Silence. The National Organization for Women issued an action alert calling for mail supporting the program. Glenn Sacks used his radio show to promote mailings objecting to the broadcast. Jan McNamara the director of corporate communication at PBS says the program is now under official review. That's good. Along with the motives of its sponsor (The Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation), Breaking the Silence needs to be reviewed for accuracy, fairness and balance.

UPDATE: BloggingBaby is also talking about this...

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