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Ken Burns says he agrees PBS can ‘do better’ on diversity, representation

The Emmy-winning documentarian Ken Burns reported Thursday that he supports the aims of a group of nonfiction filmmakers who have criticized PBS in excess of a deficiency of range and an “over-reliance” on his perform.

“I wholeheartedly guidance the goals of the letter writers,” Burns explained in an job interview. “I think this is massively important, and a single of the reasons we’ve been in public tv has been a commitment to inclusion and range.”

“But can we do better? Of training course we can. Can PBS do greater? Of class they can,” Burns added.

In a letter resolved to executives of the Public Broadcasting Support, practically 140 documentary filmmakers — including Garrett Bradley (“Time”) and Sam Pollard (“MLK/FBI”) — accused the community broadcaster of a “systemic failure to fulfill a mandate for a range of voices.”

The filmmakers stated they consider PBS has been far also reliant on the function of Burns, who has an unique partnership with PBS that will last until at the very least 2022.

In “A Letter to PBS From Viewers Like Us,” the filmmakers reported Burns has produced roughly 211 hours of programming for PBS about 40 several years, citing knowledge from his web page.

“How numerous other ‘independent’ filmmakers have a decades-extensive exclusive romance with a publicly funded entity? Community television supporting this degree of uninvestigated privilege is troubling not just for us as filmmakers but as tax-paying out People in america,” the letter writers mentioned.

Further than Inclusion, a team of nonfiction creators, executives and industry figures led by persons who are Black, Indigenous, and folks of coloration, wrote the letter and collected the signatures.

Burns is ideal recognised for documentaries about epochal historic gatherings and expansive subjects, this kind of as baseball, jazz and the Civil War. The filmmaker’s latest job, a 6-hour documentary about the writer Ernest Hemingway that was co-directed by Lynn Novick, premieres Monday on PBS.

In the interview, Burns mentioned he and his colleagues at his generation company, Florentine Films, would get the job done to deal with difficulties of range and inclusion in the documentary filmmaking group. (The complete job interview with Burns and Novick about “Hemingway” will be printed in the coming days.)

He additional that most of the dollars the company raises for tv assignments arrives from “exterior resources,” not PBS.

“I am just extremely very pleased that it [PBS] does it as nicely as anyone else,” Burns reported. “The reality that it is really however not very good plenty of? It just indicates we all have home for enhancement.”