Smithsonian Deal With Showtime Restricts Archives Access

Why has the Smithsonian Institution, whose mission is to increase and diffuse knowledge, cut a deal with Showtime Networks that gives the cable broadcaster near-exclusive use of the Smithsonian’s archives? The deal effectively hands control of the Institution’s archives to a private company.

According to Tuesday’s report, the deal essentially gives Showtime right of first refusal over any broadcast or film work that may accrue from a person’s research. “Jeanny Kim, the vice president for media services at Smithsonian Business Ventures, said the filmmakers who were doing ‘more than an incidental treatment’ of a subject mainly from Smithsonian materials or wishing to focus on a Smithsonian curator or scientist would first have to offer the idea to Smithsonian/Showtime. Otherwise, the archives could not be used outside the realm of news programs (such as “60 Minutes” and “Dateline”) in most cases.”

Showtime is owned by CBS Corporation, which also owns UPN and broadcast television syndicator King World (which owns and distributes The Oprah Winfrey Show).

A deal like this does not come together overnight. I wonder how this deal flew under the radar for so long that its existence didn’t come to light before the parties signed a contract. A quick browse of the Smithsonian’s press section offers no news about this deal. In fact, the press paid little attention to the announcement last month of the Smithsonian-Showtime “video on demand” (VOD) channel.

Jacqueline Trescott. Smithsonian Deal With Showtime Restricts Access By Filmmakers. April 4, 2006.

See also:

Edward Wyatt. Smithsonian-Showtime TV Deal Raises Concerns. The New York Times. March 31, 2006.

Anthony Crupi. Showtime, Smithsonian Launch VOD. MediaWeek. March 8, 2006.


The Washington Post. The Nation’s Attic (Editorial). April 24, 2006.

Jacqueline Trescott. Smithsonian Investigating Its Sales Division’s Salaries. April 19, 2006.

Jacqueline Trescott. Ken Burns Gives Voice to Filmmakers’ Concerns. April 19, 2006.

Jacqueline Trescott. End Smithsonian-Showtime Deal, Filmmakers and Historians Ask. April 19, 2006.

Carl Malamud. Dear Secretary Small. Center for American Progress. April 17, 2006.

Center for American Progress. Letter to Secretary Small from 215 Concerned Citizens. April 17, 2006.

if:book. Corporate Creep. April 6, 2006.

CopyCense™: K. Matthew Dames on the law, business, and technology of digital content. A business venture of Seso Digital LLC.

Written by sesomedia

04/05/2006 at 09:00

Posted in Uncategorized

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