Smithsonian-Showtime Contract Stymies Filmmakers

The Smithsonian Institution is defending a long-term multimillion dollar contract that limits access to some filmmakers in favor of Showtime Networks, a CBS affiliate. The scale of the contract with Showtime enables "an exponential growth in filming projects," Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence Small told the Government Accountability Office (GAO). But at least two filmmakers have been refused access to Smithsonian archives because the deal, among other things, limits the number of eligible archival requests from non-Showtime filmmakers. The GAO criticized the Smithsonian for underestimating the contract's restrictions and failing adequately to explain the arrangement to the public. Historians and other scholars and filmmakers, likewise, have lambasted Smithsonian leadership for limiting public use of what has been called "the nation's attic."