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Taxpayer-funded PBS stations produced a pro-Beijing documentary — and didn’t disclose China ties


The stations receive millions in federal funds every year

Xinhua/Ju Peng via Getty Images

Two PBS affiliate stations — which receive millions in taxpayer funding every year — are airing a pro-Beijing documentary, which was produced in conjunction with China Global Television Network, a Chinese media outlet controlled by the country's communist government.

What are the details?

Investigative reporter Chuck Ross broke the news Thursday about the film, "Voices from the Frontline: China's War on Poverty," which touts Chinese President Xi Jinping's plan to end poverty in the country by 2020.

PBS affiliate KOCE, known as PBS SoCal, helped produce the film and premiered it Monday. KCET, which merged with KOCE in 2018, will air the show on Saturday. Other PBS affiliates, including in Idaho and Las Vegas, have either already aired the film or plan to do so later this month.

The one-hour documentary touts Chinese President Xi Jinping's initiative to alleviate poverty in China by this year.

"In the last forty years, China's economic development has lifted more than 700 people out of poverty," reads the introductory script in the film.

"To President Xi Jinping, ending poverty is his most important task," the script states.

In his report, Ross noted that the film does not disclose CGTN's links to the Chinese government nor does it disclose film producer Robert Lawrence Kuhn's ties to officials at China's State Council Information Office, which reportedly specializes in foreign propaganda.

In February 2019, CGTN, China's primary state broadcaster, filed with the U.S. government as a foreign agent of the Chinese government, yet this goes without mention in the film.

What else?

According to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting records, KCET received $5.6 million in federal funding last year, and more than $1.8 million in 2018. KOCE also received more than $1.8 million in 2018 before the merger.

Since taking office, President Trump has repeatedly called for defunding the CPB, which provides funding for public TV stations such as PBS and NPR, but proposals have failed to pass through Congress.

While federal funding is not the only source of income for PBS stations, federal dollars are crucial for many stations to continue operations.

"There is no viable replacement for federal funding – which amounts to $1.35 per citizen per year," PBS SoCal acknowledges on its website.

More on the film producer

According to Ross, Kuhn, a former investment a banker, is well connected and highly regarded in China. He reportedly appears frequently on Chinese state media outlets to discuss his views on the country.

Here's more from the Daily Caller report:

In December 2018, Kuhn was awarded the China Reform Friendship Medal at an event held in Beijing and attended by Xi Jinping. Kuhn's personal website shows a photo of him shaking hands with Xi at the event, and refers to the medal as "China's highest award."

Kuhn hosted a delegation that same year to Beijing to meet with Jiang Jianguo, who served as minister of the State Council Information Office, the office reported.

China's initiative to fight poverty has been a point of focus for Kuhn.

Reports out of China in recent years have claimed that the government has lifted more than 700 million people out of poverty over the last three decades, but skeptics have been quick to point out that the media arms doing that reporting are controlled by the government.

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