Minnesota PBS Refuses to Broadcast “Catholicism” While U.S. Bishops Ask for TV Fairness & TransparencyBy
But when many of the 700,000 Catholics in the Twin Cities, Minnesota area asked their local PBS affiliate to carry the program, they declined by claiming it was “sectarian” — even while admitting it was “well produced and interesting” (you can contact the Twin Cities PBS at email@example.com).
[Update: a brief search on the Twin Cities PBS website reveals they are airing this program on Sunday, November 13th: “Bridging Cultures: Islam and the West”:
The cultural and scientific exchanges that have occurred over centuries between Western and Islamic nations have led to countless advances in literature, philosophy, architecture, mathematics, physics and the visual arts. Those exchanges are discussed by scholars gathered from around the world. Produced with the UM Program in Religious Studies.]
Yesterday before the Federal Communications Commission, Bishop Gabino Zavala, chair of the Communications Committee at the USCCB asked that religious programming be one of the categories that broadcasters report, and that they make these schedules available on the internet (the FCC is scheduled to vote on the proposal today).
Interesting to me was the reasons Bishop Zavala gave for endorsing the move (underlining mine):
Bishop Zavala stressed that religious programming needs to be one of the reporting categories. “In proceeding after proceeding, USCCB has informed the Commission of the increasing difficulty and financial burden it and Catholic dioceses face in obtaining airtime on local broadcast stations for full length programs and even public service announcements.
[The] USCCB has expended resources to gather and organize that information, but the Commission frequently has dismissed this information as ‘merely anecdotal,’” he explained. Requiring broadcasters to disclose the actual programs they air will provide much needed facts for the public to participate in the license renewal process and in future rulemakings.
In other words, the claim being made here I think is not that broadcasters will often explicitly censor Catholic programming, but that they will simply employ other means to make it difficult or impossible for Catholic dioceses to get in front of a TV audience — and one of the ways they may do this is by shielding from public view the schedule of programming they are airing.
Catholics are not used to being watchdogs of the airwaves, but I think a little more vigilance is necessary, especially when one considers what an opportunity for evangelization and reaching people is being missed when it is made especially difficult for Catholics to get airtime. PBS, after all, is supposed to be a public service, and Catholics have an equal right to take advantage of those services.
I’d be curious, for instance, to see what other “sectarian” programs the Twin Cities PBS affiliate may have aired over the years. I’d also be curious to see a map of which PBS affiliates consented to show a portion of Catholicism and which ones didn’t.
If someone feels like doing that research and make it publicly available, I think we’d all be interested in seeing the results.