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Science Congress Takeaway #2. Megyn Kelly and Living in Dangerous Times

Science Producers Congress was a success this year, thanks to the host public broadcaster SVT, the organizers, and the most beautiful city of Stockholm.

The panels I attended were very rewarding.

There were two beautiful events: at the Golden Room in City Hall where Nobel prizewinners celebrate; and the Vasa Museum which is built around a salvaged 17th century warship and which is my pick as the best thematic museum anywhere.

And above all, there was plenty of comfortable space for conversations among the producers and the many commissioners and funders who attended.

Here are more of my highlights:

“Resistance to Facts”

  • SVT‘s Managing Director Hanna Stjärne opened Congress by declaring that SVT is dedicated to the fight against the wave of fact denial that is sweeping the World.
  • SVT’s goal is to create conversations’ that are ‘stubborn with the facts.’
  • She said that this is a challenge because Swedish viewers now switch unpredictably between broadcast and online viewing, depending on the format, content, time, and so on.
  • Because of Sweden’s advanced digital infrastructure, SVT’s programming strategy is a useful test market for public broadcasters and quality channels everywhere. We’ll update you in 2017.

Resistance to Threats

  • Sunny Side of the Doc‘s Yves Jeanneau said in conversation that the elephant in the room was that the ‘fact resisters’ who are coming to power are not just angry debaters, but a mass movement that is violently opposed to the values dear to most producers attending Congress.
  • The movement targets its opponents with online campaigns that threaten careers, private lives, and often personal safety.
  • BTW, Sunnyside 2017 will dedicate a key program theme to the documentary in the new climate.

The Megyn Kelly Example

  • I was reminded of a recent interview with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly on npr’s “Fresh Air”.
  • Kelly had pressed Donald Trump about his derogatory comments about women during the first Republican primary debate.
  • Trump responded with a Twitter attack, which was quickly followed up by a barrage of insulting tweets and even death threats from his followers:

The c-word was in thousands of tweets directed at me — lots of threats to beat the hell out of me, to rape me, honestly the ugliest things you can imagine. But most of this stuff I was able to just dismiss as angry people who are trying to scare me, you know. However, there were so many that rose to the level of “OK, that one we need to pay attention to,” that it did become alarming. It wasn’t like I walked down the street in constant fear of someone trying to take my life, but I was very aware of it.

The thing I was most worried about was that I have a 7- and a 5- and a 3-year-old, and I was worried I’d be walking down the street with my kids and somebody would do something to me in front of them; they would see me get punched in the face or get hurt. Megyn Kelly

Public Television

  • PBS is a predictable target:
  • PBS has beaten back past ferocious Congressional attacks on its funding by mobilizing viewers who are loyal to the educational, community and other benefits of the entire system. But the new attack M.O. is personal. And that’s different.