Do they really want to go there? The Public Broadcasting Service’s board is to vote in June on a recommendation to “strip the affiliation of any station that carries ‘sectarian’ content,” as the Washington Post account has it. And apparently “sectarian” can mean televised masses:
The proposal is already having local ramifications. In anticipation of the vote next month, WHUT, the public station operated by Howard University in the District, has notified the Archdiocese of Washington that it will cancel “Mass for Shut-Ins,” a Diocese-produced weekly program, if the PBS board adopts a strict interpretation. “Mass for Shut-Ins” has been carried on WHUT since 1996, and continuously on a Washington TV station for nearly 60 years.
“It’s kind of a shock to us,” said Susan Gibbs, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese. “They’ve been great partners of ours for a long time…The Mass is a very local programming that provides a community service. You’d think public television would be about engaging the community.”
PBS, which is based in Crystal City, did not have an official tally of how many of its 356 member stations carry broadcasts of religious services, but the number is believed to be small.
Under bylaws enacted in 1985, PBS stations are required to present programs that are noncommercial, nonpartisan and nonsectarian. The rules were put in place to ensure balance and fairness among PBS-affiliated stations, which rely on government funding, private-sector grants and sponsorships, and contributions from viewers.
But the definition of “nonsectarian” programming has always been loosely interpreted, and the rule has never been strictly enforced, according to PBS officials. The issue came up for debate late last year as PBS stations began overhauling their membership rules for the transition to digital television.
Calling Oscar the Grouch.
But question: If they allow “Mass for Shut-Ins,” they’ll also have to allow content from other religions. You want a Scientology informercial? Still, it seems to call for reasonable accomodation. The spirit of the law versus the letter. But I’m sounding like a liberal…