The Smithsonian Institution has made an exclusive deal with Showtime Networks, Inc., allowing the cable TV content company to create a private cable station for documentaries that use footage from the Smithsonian’s collections. Part of the deal is that any documentarians using any Smithsonian footage will be limited to this new Showtime channel as the outlet for their work, unless the Smithsonian lets them off the hook. This represents an unprecendented privatization of a public cultural institution. In what sense does the Smithsonian still have a public character? Should the public allow this deal?
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