The House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations has written a letter to the Secretary of the Smithsonian, blasting the museum for inking a secret deal with Showtime to make the network the sole commercial user of Smithsonian footage in documentary films:
The Subcommittee requests the Board of Regents to immediately review this contract to determine whether it violates the spirit if not the letter of the Smithsonian Trust and to consider changes to the contract which would fully guarantee that its terms are limited to a narrow set of programs and not a bar to other legitimate commercial filmmakers who we believe have the right to reasonable access to the collections and staff. The Subcommittee requests that this matter be brought to the attention of the Board of Regents at its May 2006 meeting and that a response be provided to the Committee regarding these concerns within 90 days.
In addition to our concern about this particular contract, we would be concerned about any future agreements that are negotiated in secret, without Committee consultation, which commercialize Smithsonian resources or which appear to essentially sell access to Smithsonian resources. While the Committee recognizes that budget shortfalls, in particular the need for funds to repair and maintain an aging infrastructure, require the Smithsonian to be aggressive and imaginative in its fund raising, these actions are often controversial and raise the risk of damaging both Congressional and public support for the Institution.