The station postponed showing the film because of a rule mandating they give candidates equal airtime.
Detroit Public Television has decided not to air a two-part documentary on women of color in politics this week, as it features Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, who is currently running a contested race for re-election.
The documentary, And She Could Be Next, follows the campaigns of Tlaib and five other women of color around the country as they ran for elected office in 2018 and worked to usher in a new era of progressive politics.
After two years in Congress representing Michigan’s 13th district, Tlaib is up for re-election this year and is running in the August 4 Democratic primary against Detroit City Councilwoman Brenda Jones.
Rich Homberg, DPTV’s president and CEO, said that while he thinks the documentary “covers a very important topic,” the station can’t air it right now because of the federal equal time rule. The rule mandates that if broadcasters give airtime to one candidate running for political office, they have to give the same amount of airtime to every candidate running in that race.
Tlaib is featured in about 43 minutes of the program, but what makes it complicated is the film’s documentary style, Homberg said.
“It’s not just her talking for 43 minutes – she’s embedded in a documentary that someone else created,” he told the Jewish News. “It leaves us in a position where it’s almost impossible to suggest what equal time would look like.”
DPTV originally planned to air the documentary, which is part of PBS’s POV series, this Monday and Tuesday evenings (June 29 and 30). According to Homberg, the station’s programming schedule is created about six months in advance. Jones did not officially enter the Congressional race until March.
“As we got closer to the date and we started to look at it, it’s an excellent piece of work,” he said. “But [we realized we] cannot air it at this time.”
According to the Detroit Free Press, Georgia Public Broadcasting has also decided not to air the program. Another subject of the documentary, Congresswoman Lucy McBath, is currently running for re-election in Georgia.
Homberg said he hasn’t spoken to either the Tlaib or Jones campaigns about the decision not to show the film right now. The station does plan to air the documentary at some point, but Homberg said they’ll decide when to show it after the primary is through.
“We decided the best, the fairest decision would be to air the documentary after the election. It will be part of our ongoing coverage of women and minorities in all aspects of community life, including politics,” Homberg wrote in an email.
Representatives from Jones and Tlaib’s campaigns did not return requests for comment by the time of publication. Tlaib has often come under fire from Metro Detroit’s Jewish community for her support of the global Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement and her public statements criticizing Israel.
People in Detroit and across the country can still watch the documentary, which was directed by Grace Lee and Marjan Safinia, and executive produced by Ava DuVernay, director of Selma and 13th, online at the POV site.