Claire Brown, the National Air and Space Museum's director of communications, informed us that our award-winning "War Stories" documentary unit would not be permitted to videotape in this public facility. According to her, the four minutes of the Enola Gay that we would air violates an exclusive contract between Showtime and Smithsonian Networks.
How much did Viacom pay for their exclusive rights to America's treasures? Was this contract put out to bid so that others could compete for the privilege of broadcasting our nation's heritage? Were brokers involved? If so, what were they paid? How long will this arrangement remain in effect?
Every American ought to know the answers to these questions. After all, it's our history. But if America's heritage is going on the block, it would be nice to know where to start the bidding for the Library of Congress or the National Archives.
I think I'd have to agree with Mr. North, that this is inappropriate. As a public institution, the Smithsonian should be open for all documentary/educational purposes. It may be appropriate to charge an administrative fee for filming access, but there should not be contracted exclusion.