×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Ken Burns Says Vietnam Documentary Is Only Possible at PBS

With President Donald Trump pushing to eliminate funding for public broadcasting, filmmaker Ken Burns defended the model Sunday as the only one able to accommodate his brand of longform documentary filmmaking.

Appearing at the Television Critics Association press tour to promote his upcoming documentary “The Vietnam War,” Burns said, “I need to give a commercial to public broadcasting,” adding “there is no other place that this could have been made,” having spent 10 years working on the 18-hour series.

Those in the commercial-television world apparently agree with him.

“There’s not a business model where any film production company — and I’m very good friends with [HBO CEO] Richard Plepler, and he agrees — that we can spend the resources and the time and the scholarship to do this, except public broadcasting,” Burns said.

Burns’ comments came two months after Trump proposed a federal budget that would eliminate most funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting — which provides hundreds of millions of dollars every year to local PBS and NPR stations. The House appropriations committee recently voted to preserve CPB funding, but the federal budget has yet to be finalized.

Burns defended federal funding Sunday, touting the impact of PBS and the relatively miniscule cost of funding its member stations through federal appropriation.

“While we count on the marketplace to do lots of things in our lives, and it’s a wonderful, positive element in our lives, the marketplace doesn’t come to your house at 3 a.m. when it’s on fire,” Burns said. “The marketplace does not have boots on the ground in Afghanistan at this moment. And while I wouldn’t ever suggest that public broadcasting has anything to do with the defense of the country, I think with every fiber of my being that it makes our country worth defending by what it has added to our national conversation.”

Burns also said that the upcoming Vietnam film, which he directed with Lynn Novick and which premieres Sept. 17 on PBS stations, does not offer a political take on the the war.

“We try super hard not to sort of put our thumb on the scale or to promote an agenda, political or otherwise,” Burns said. “It’s enough to spend 10 years just trying to wrestle this story to the ground, and we felt that it was hugely important because the story is rarely told from more than one perspective.”

More TV

  • BBC Orders Spoof Talk Show Fronted

    Spoof Talk Show Fronted by an Animated Vladimir Putin Coming to the BBC

    The BBC will air a spoof talk-show fronted by an animated Vladimir Putin. The U.K. pubcaster has ordered two pilot episodes of “Tonight with Vladimir Putin,” a semi-scripted talk show hosted by a CGI representation of the Russian leader. The first guest will be Alistair Campbell, a former high-ranking political spin doctor in the U.K. [...]

  • Upcoming Fantasy Shows Like 'Game of

    10 Upcoming Shows to Watch if You're Mourning 'Game of Thrones'

    Millions of people’s Sunday night routines are ruined now that “Game of Thrones” is over, and there are holes in their hearts as big as the hole in The Wall that are aching for a new fantasy series to fill them. Several prequel series are on their way, but as there’s no word on just [...]

  • Game of Thrones Composer Ramin Djawadi

    'Game of Thrones' Composer Ramin Djawadi: 'I'm Still in Denial'

    Since the first season, Ramin Djawadi has composed the music for “Game of Thrones” and created the epic tunes, including the iconic theme song, heard over the series’ most memorable moments. With the series finished, he talked with Zane Lowe on Apple Music’s Beats 1 about his experience on the show and an upcoming 20-city [...]

  • TUPAC SHAKUR black panther collection

    ‘Defiant Ones’ Director to Helm Docuseries on Tupac, Who Assaulted Him in 1993

    Director Allen Hughes, who helmed the award-winning HBO documentary “The Defiant Ones,” has closed a deal with Tupac Shakur’s estate for a five-part docuseries for which he will have full access to all of the late rapper’s released and unreleased recordings, writings and poetry, according to an announcement from his rep. The announcement says the [...]

  • Ellen DeGeneres -- The Ellen Show

    Ellen DeGeneres Extends Daytime Talk Show Run Through 2022

    Ellen DeGeneres is sticking with her daytime talk show. DeGeneres announced Tuesday that she has signed a new deal to continue hosting “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” through 2022. There had been rumors for some time that DeGeneres was planning to leave the show when her current contract was up in 2020, something she leaned into [...]

  • How YouTube Is Trying to Get

    How YouTube Is Trying to Get Will Smith His First-Ever Emmy Nomination (EXCLUSIVE)

    YouTube could be the key to Will Smith finally earning a Primetime Emmy nomination — or win. The superstar Formerly Known as the Fresh Prince has been nominated for two Academy Awards, five Golden Globes and one Screen Actors Guild Award, and has won four Grammys (out of eight nominations). Yet a Primetime Emmy nomination [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content