CPB Office of the Ombudsman

The Tea Party and America ReFramed

Joel Kaplan

July 16, 2014

The World Channel recently broadcast a film called "Town Hall" as part of its series, America ReFramed that takes a look at the evolution of the Tea Party political movement.

Mary Lee Marra, a viewer from Massachusetts, was not happy with the film:

I have just finished watching a World Channel program America Reframed. It was called "Town Hall".

I have to tell you how sad I am that such a low quality program, which felt like propaganda, could be on such an amazing channel that I always turn to.

How did this arrive within your usual quality selections? The program closed using an alleged statement from a child's school bus ride home about "food stamps being taken away" and the main speaker comments on that by equating the food stamp program with Santa Claus.

I was absolutely sickened by such propaganda. And if this is how Republicans think, I hope to God they keep losing!

Simon Kilmurry and Chris Hastings, the executive producers of America ReFramed, have responded to Ms. Marra's complaint:

"Town Hall" is an exploration of the development of the Tea Party movement from the perspective of two Tea Party activists in Pennsylvania, John Stahl and Katy Abram. The Tea Party and its influence in the political conversation is something that has received broad media coverage. However, it is much rarer to see how that movement has developed on the ground and what has motivated individual members of the movement to become deeply politically engaged. This film tries to fill that gap in the overall narrative by following the two activists in their work.

Ms. Marra expresses particular concern with a reference made by Katy Abram to food stamps towards the end of the film. Katy is expressing her own opinion, and while it is legitimate for any viewer to disagree with Katy, that does not mean that this opinion is irrelevant. As one reviewer wrote, the film "does viewers a service with its relaxed approach, moving beyond sound bites and getting to know two individuals representing the most vocal part of the scene."

America ReFramed seeks to present films that have a broad range of topics and opinions that portray the full diversity of the country. We feel that "Town Hall" fulfills this mandate by presenting a story that has both nuance and real-life complexity.

We welcome this opportunity to share our perspective on this film, and we welcome the feedback that Ms. Marra has shared.

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