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October 6, 2015

General Motors drops Ken Burns

by Danny Gallagher, posted Mar 10th 2009 11:30AM

General Motors has made a lot of dumb decisions in their day, and three-quarters of them are still being sold to gullible car-buyers across the globe.

However, one of their biggest, boneheaded moves doesn't involve a car at all. The soon-to-be-former car manufacturing giant has announced that it's ending its 22-year run as primary sponsor for PBS filmmaker Ken Burns, and it just might end Burns' career in television as we know it.

GM was more than just a sponsor for Burns and his wonderful films. GM was his reason for existence.

The car company provided millions of dollars as an underwriter for his films, starting with The Civil War and running all the way to the absolutely brilliant The War. Without GM, it would be hard to find someone with an extra $2 million lying around that they wouldn't need or feel safer keeping buried in a jar in the backyard.

The move also spells doom for PBS. Burns' documentaries are among their highest rated programs, and it would be hard to pull in equal numbers without him. The director is as well known as his movies because of the style he invented and the attention to detail he has for his subjects. The man has a visual film effect named after him. The only thing GM has named after them is a crappy electric car that even Al Gore wouldn't drive.

I, for one, hope the unthinkable won't happen, and that 10 years from now when Burns is chronicling the second Great Depression, he'll have the last laugh when his film The Recession features the collapse of GM.

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Jason Blosser

Burns is a two-hit wonder with overt liberal leanings. Let him get a real job and make money like the rest of us. GM has every right to drop sponsorships, and considering their current financial situation, they should have done this long ago. And not just with Burns.

March 12 2009 at 7:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm pretty sure someone with Burns reputation will be able to find another sponsor, even in these tough economic times.

March 10 2009 at 2:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

rofl, the "end" of Ken Burns and PBS...over GM pulling out of advertising? I bet you think when you feel a swollen gland you think it's cancer, planning your funeral immediately.

March 10 2009 at 2:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rick cokely

Sounds like Rush Limbaugh wrote this post instead of Danny. Seriously, let's not wish for failure unless we're talking about Michelle Malkin or (m)Ann Coulter.

March 10 2009 at 1:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

All this love for a car company that has done bad business and made cars nobody wants to buy for YEARS, and yet is demanding federal money for their bad business practices? GM was going in the tank LONG before the economy began crumbling. It's unfortunate, yes, but it's true.

Danny also never said anything about AIG getting billions being a good thing, either, so I think it's rather silly to assume he thinks that way.

However, if GM goes under (which is looking more and more likely), Ken Burns would've been without the funding anyway, so I don't see how it's much different being cut out now vs. in the near future. And at least they've funded several Burns films over the years, which may not have happened had they not stepped up in the first place.

But believe it or not, the arts also create jobs. The money going from GM to Ken Burns didn't just help him make his fortunes (which are surely far less than GM execs) -- it also no doubt kept many other people employed, as well. The idea that art needs to be sacrificed due to the economy is preposterous, as 1) the arts do create jobs, and 2) the only real positive that can come out of financial uncertainty and "tough times" is strong and passionate creative pieces.

March 10 2009 at 1:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wow. I loved everything Ken Burns has done, but you complaints with GM seem pretty hacky. These guys are broke, so they cut expenses by not funding movies ( which in the end that's all Ken Burns is making) and now they're assholes?

Can't wait for more nuggets of wisdom.

March 10 2009 at 1:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Most of the previous posters have said it so I'll be brief. Your post was very ignorant. Stick to reviewing reality TV, as that seems to be about what you can handle.

March 10 2009 at 12:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You know what? I'm a loyal Toyota owner and even I agree with everyone else's comments here. I think you missed the mark big time with this post.

You really need to do some fact checking in regards to the trickle down effect of GM, Chrysler, et al going out of business. It's not pretty and could, inadvertantly, cause you to loose your job and not just because of this stupid post.

March 10 2009 at 12:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think Ken Burns and his films are national treasures. However, I don't think that taxpayer money going to GM should be funneled into his films. As a country we should be supporting work like Burns's directly, no matter what our national economic status. But it should come from the National Endowment for the Arts, or some other organization. Not from a car company whose obvious failure in the marketplace has left it struggling for survival, and begging the federal government for handouts.

There. I'm sure I've made both sides unhappy. :-)

March 10 2009 at 12:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wait - so manufacturing selling people cars they actually ask for is dumb (the C/K1500 is the number 2 selling vehicle on the planet - next to the F-150), but it would be much smarter to continue bankrolling something that has almost zero ROI

I love Ken Burns work, but given their cash shortage, you'd think non-vehicle producing expendatures would have been cut a long time ago...

March 10 2009 at 12:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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