Sunday, May 17, 2009

PBS: How will "Non-Sectarian" Programming Change It?

PBS board to vote on sectarian programs (Seattle Times)

According to the Washington Post, Public Broadcasting Service's board are scheduled next month to define the one of their basic precepts: not to broadcast "religious programming".

News Reports refer specifically to Television programming; at this time it is not clear whether any decision or clarification of terms will similarly apply to radio programming.

The discussion, some station managers fear, could lead to a ban on broadcasts of local church services and other faith-oriented programs that have appeared on public stations for decades despite the prohibition.

The Public Broadcasting Service's board is to vote next month on a committee's recommendation to strip the affiliation of any station that carries "sectarian" content. Losing its PBS relationship would mean a station could no longer broadcast programs that the service distributes, from "Sesame Street" to "Frontline."

Not being much of a television watcher, I can only remember from my childrens' youth how much they (and I) enjoyed "Sesame Street". Disenfranchising a station would have a powerful impact on local programming, one which no station would easily ignore.

In my locality, I've been listening this afternoon to my local PBS radio station. They just finished a two-hour programming complex (several similarly related programs) which might be called "Songs of The South". The last program was "Alabama Music", which prominently featured Hank Williams.

A preceding segment might be termed "Black Music of The South", which featured Jazz, Blues, Soul ... and Gospel.

It would be difficult to imagine an attempt to portray this segment of American culture without including Gospel music. If this attempt to Bowlderise programming content were to be enforced, the programming would (inaccurately) suggest that religious music was not an important part of American culture.

That is, by definition any reference to religion, no matter how innocuous or how important and/or necessary to the content, would be identified as "objectionable" by implication.

This isn't 'just' a corporate decision; this is a decision which affects how the First Amendment may be applied to Public Broadcasting. Even though it would currently affect PBS, under the current administration it would establish a dangerous precedent.

The worst part of it is, it's a decision which is not made by The People (the "Public" which the system is intended to serve), it's not even a decision which will be made by Congress ... our elected representatives.

Should it be?

If, for example, Clear Channel radio made the decision to discontinue any "sectarian content", that would be a legitimate Corporate decision. One wonders, though, whether the PBS Directors can legitimately make this decision.

There are doubtless those PBS patrons (listeners or viewers) who truly do find "sectarian" or "religious" programming objectionable.

The First Amendment, though was defined specifically to protect "objectionable speech".

And there are may be even more PBS patrons who will be disappointed that Public Television and/or Public Radio will no longer be permitted to present content which may be considered "religious". Or "Sectarian".

It depends on whether the word "sectarian" means "applying to a specific religious sect to the exclusion of others", or "applying to any non-secular content".

The dictionary definition doesn't define sectarian as religion in general; it refers to a "sect" as:

a body of persons adhering to a particular religious faith; a religious denomination.

And "Sectarian":

1. of or pertaining to sectaries or sects.
2. narrowly confined or devoted to a particular sect.
3. narrowly confined or limited in interest, purpose, scope, etc.
[emphasis added]

I don't personally go out of my way to listen or view religious programming. If something come up which I choose not to listen to, or to view, I simply change the channel or do something else. I don't demand that it be removed from the airways because it offends me.

But not everyone is like me.

In the New Liberal / Politically Correct culture which we have watched develop during the past generation, there seem to be a narrowly defined group of people whose attitude is that anything which offends them must be forbidden. And we are deferring to their selfish demands.

In other words, we are catering to a Sect.

Now, that offends me.

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