PBS Bans New Religious Shows

While Reader’s Digest is talking of moving further to the right and including more spiritual stories, PBS is looking to firm up its policy to avoid religious shows. They will grandfather in current religious shows but will not allow new ones:

The Public Broadcasting Service agreed yesterday to ban its member stations from airing new religious TV programs, but permitted the handful of stations that already carry “sectarian” shows to continue doing so.

The vote by PBS’s board was a compromise from a proposed ban on all religious programming. Such a ban would have forced a few stations around the country to give up their PBS affiliation if they continued to broadcast local church services and religious lectures.

Until now, PBS stations have been required to present programming that is noncommercial, nonpartisan and nonsectarian. But the definition of “nonsectarian” programming was always loosely interpreted, and the rule had never been strictly enforced. PBS began reviewing the definition and application of those rules last year in light of the transition to digital TV and with many stations streaming programs over their Web sites. The definition doesn’t cover journalistic programs about religion or discussion programs that don’t favor a particular religious point of view.

Stations will be allowed to air religious shows on digital channels they operate and web sites as long as they don’t carry PBS shows or identify with PBS.

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  1. 1
    Mr. Jeffersonian says:

    I fail to see why PBS would put religious programming on inthe first place especially when there are so many basic cable channels willing to do this anyway.

  2. 2
    Christoher Skyi says:

    PBS isn’t boycotting all shows about religion, but it sounds like they’re phasing out shows that advocate for a particular religious point of view. I’m assuming the rational is to put them into better conformity with the Constitution since PBS is partially funded by Federal money and the Establishment Clause prevents the government from doing anything that could be taken as an endorsement of a given religion.
    I believe the charter of PBS is that its programming must be  noncommercial, nonpartisan and nonsectarian.
    However, there could be complaints and even challenges from the religious right because PBS is hardly “nonpartisan.”
    While most public opinion polls commissioned by PBS have found that most Americans don’t perceive tax-funded radio and television as politically biased, that’s probably because it conforms to their biases, e.g., I’m totally with its tilt toward gay rights, freedom of expression, and social tolerance and its deep skepticism toward the religious right.
    However, who could fail to notice a preponderance of reports on racism, sexism, and environmental destruction, but very few reports on the burden of taxes and regulation, or the unconstitutionality of most federal programs, or the way that state and federal governments increasingly abuse the rule of law in going after unpopular defendants such as tobacco companies and Wall Street executives.
    There’s clearly a tilt towards one viewpoint, one, for the most part, that’s in align with most, but not all, of my values.
    David Boaz said it best:
    “The Rreal problem is not liberal bias but the inevitability of bias. Any reporter or editor has to choose what’s important. It’s impossible to make such decisions without a framework, a perspective, a view of how the world works.
    If anything should be kept separate from government and politics, it’s the news and public affairs programming that informs Americans about government and its policies. When government brings us the news—with all the inevitable bias and spin—the government is putting its thumb on the scales of democracy. Journalists should not work for the government. Taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize news and public-affairs programming.”

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