I'm Gabriella Schneider. I'm the communications director at a non-partisan non-profit called the Sunlight Foundation. We advocate for open government civic technology to engage citizens in our democracy. And keeping ‘Independent Lens’ and ‘POV’, two series that represent diverse groups their primetime slots on primetime channels and working with stations to ensure they're carried is core to PBS's mandate as a public service.
As Goes Janesville, a film by 371 Productions, is a really good example of this kind of work. Here's why. The film alerted viewers to a situation where by the local government in that Wisconsin town, underhandedly excluded residents to what should have been open meetings to decide the tax incentive to lure medical start-up business after the GM factory closed in that town, leaving it quite depressed. Even though those residents would have to foot the bill as taxpayers, they were left out of the process. As Goes Janesville went beyond telling just that story, it educated PBS viewers about the importance of an open and accountable government and our right to participate in public hearings about important decisions.
This documentary film took storytelling to the next level and built a civic tech mobile app called BizVis that not only keeps the story alive from the film, but also engages concerned citizens in a new ways to create corporate accountability. It informs them of their consumer choices and how whatever they buy could support companies that for example, might also be avoiding paying their taxes like the company profiled in As Goes Janesville. Or how employees of such companies also wield political influence on Capitol Hill through campaign contributions. We were really pleased to see this because it was data complied by the Sunlight Foundation.
Through our research, I want to show you that public media makers are helping to put the power back into our hands, of “we the people.” They're inspiring us to contribute to the common good. I think that's a win for democracy. And another win for democracy would be for PBS to continue to air these series in their primetime slots and their primary channels. Thank you.