Cancer film on Colorado pubTV prompts PBS Ombudsman column

By Dru Sefton

PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler takes on a controversial documentary aired by a local station, Denver-based Colorado Public Television, in his latest column.

Burzynski the Movie — Cancer Is Serious Business ran as a March pledge special on CPT. It follows a Polish-born physician and biochemist Stanislaw Burzynski and his work at the Texas clinic he established in 1976 for a cancer treatment based on what he calls “antineoplastons.”

As Getler notes: “There is almost nothing about this film that isn’t controversial.” Getler said he received about a dozen critical letters even before it even aired.

The problem, as Getler sees it, is the film’s bias. It “doesn’t have the kind of critical other-side that one is used to in other documentaries. In part, this is probably because FDA officials declined to be quoted on camera, as an ABC-TV news clip about the controversy made clear in the film.” Also, Getler said, an extensive on-air interview with a spokesperson with the Burzynski Clinic in Houston “diminished its impact” as an even-handed examination.

CPT President Wick Rowland told Getler that the program’s airing “is grounded in the station’s mission, specifically those portions about respecting our viewers as inquisitive and discerning citizens, addressing social issues and public concerns not otherwise adequately covered in the community, and cultivating an environment of discovery and learning.”

CPT is a PBS member station that broadcasts under the call letters KBDI.

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