PBS To Excommunicate Affiliates

The "Mass for Shut-Ins" has been broadcast in Washington DC for 60 years ― the last thirteen on WHUT a PBS affiliate. WLAE in New Orleans, also a PBS affiliate, has been broadcasting a Mass since 1984.

Now, PBS is considering a proposal that re-interprets a rule that would prohibit any PBS affiliate from broadcasting any religious (called sectarian) content or be refused the ability to broadcast PBS content.

The existing rule requires affiliates to present programs that are noncommercial, nonpartisan and nonsectarian. However, the non-sectarian part of the rule has always been loosely interpreted as has, some would say, the nonpartisan rule as well. But now the PBS board is set to vote next month on a committee recommendation that would strip affiliates like WHUT and WLAE of the ability to broadcast PBS services unless they dump the religious programming.

WHUT has said it will cancel the "Mass for Shut Ins" if the rule is passed.
[WaPo] "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."
The folks at WLAE, which is partly owned by a Catholic lay group, have been showing the morning Mass since 1984 and it has become part of the station's identity.
"We don't want to lose our association with PBS, because they provide a lot of fine programs," said Ron Yager, the station's vice president and general manager. "But at the same time, we need to serve our community. We've built an identity around this. People know us for this."

Yager said his station has never received a complaint about the Mass telecast in the 25 years it has aired. "I'm really not totally sure of their reasoning for doing this," he said.
So what is the reason for doing this? Ostensibly, and rather ironically, PBS claims it is so that they can retain "editorial independence." Obviously this independence does not extend to the affiliates. This seems rather contradictory since PBS lists as one of their guiding principles:
Local Station Autonomy

PBS believes that public broadcasting's greatest potential is realized when it serves the unique needs of the local community, and that there are wide variations in local needs and tastes. No one is better qualified to determine and respond to those local needs than the public television station licensed to that community.
But now that autonomy is over. If this rule is passed stations must fall in line or face immediate ex-communication from the PBS family. Were that some religions were as draconian, ahem.

Whatever the particulars of the committee's reasoning, the real reason is that we are witnessing a time where militant secularism is purging every last vestige of public religious life. PBS has long been an adjunct of the secularist movement and frankly it is rather surprising that the inquisition took this long in coming. Perhaps now any fear that funding would be withheld after such a maneuver is gone. Whatever they lose from the religious public (which I can't imagine is much at this point) will more than be made up by their friends in Congress.

This rule change/re-interpretation is not yet a done deal as the vote is not until next month. A spokesperson for PBS said "We're still gathering feedback from our members to see where they stand." The question is will they stand? Will you?

PBS can be contacted:

PBS Foundation

2100 Crystal Drive, Arlington, VA 22202
Phone: (703) 739-5051
Fax: (703) 299-2985


ht to Carina -- Thanks!


  1. I'm so sick of the secular media anyway, I'm about to throw the tellies into the ocean.

  2. Oh, the irony. If PBS thinks for one moment that they are neutral on issues of faith, then they are at the front of the line of chronic liars. I cannot tell you how many times I have been disgusted the way they misrepresent Jesus and the Christian faith and falsify historical claims in shows such as "Searching for the real Jesus," et al. The agenda is clear for PBS: discredit Christianity in subtle but meaningful ways.

  3. Ah, but I bet they'll still trot out The Priests for the pledge drives!

  4. Never, never give money to PBS or any of its affillates; and influence others not to do so. They despise Christianity and reserve their deepest hatred for the Catholic Church. What you pay in taxes more than covers what little that's worthwhile watching. Their "pledge drives" are vomit-inducing.

  5. Does this mean we will no longer see PBS fund-raiser segments with Deepak Chopra, Dr. Wayne Whatever-his-name-is and other new age types? I sure hope they'll be banished.

    God bless,

  6. non-commercial programming is what they're looking for? Then they'll have to dump Sesame Street, too, right? Last time I checked, people weren't handing out Tickle Me Elmo for FREE, were they?

    And they won't be able to sell DVDs of their own specials, right?

  7. Why should we not be surprised at this turn of events? Obama and his ilk WANT TOTAL CONTROL and PBS "cracking the whip" is just the beginning. Watch the networks and you can see the impact of Obamamania. And by trying to intimidate talk radio in silence with the so-called "Fairness Doctrine," we are witnessing the birth of a dictatorship of secularism. God help America!

  8. PBS broadcasted Mass? I never knew it did...

  9. PBS does not broadcast the Mass. The local station does.

    PBS is not a "television network" in the conventional sense. Local public stations can choose to use or not use any of the network feed programs. Ownership of stations may vary. The best ones -- that is to say, the best financed -- are the ones owned by community-based associations. WGBH in Boston is a prime example, and is a major source of "network" programming. Others are owned by universities, such as the subject of this post, WHUT at Howard University in DC. The ones in Kentucky and West Virginia are part of state networks. Kentucky's is a state-wide simulcast on all local channels, and I believe WV is the same. A few smaller ones are owned by local school boards, and are mostly for school service use. Some even use little or no PBS programming.

    Public broadcasting on the national scale has always been liberal in its social and political bent. How it works on the local level is another matter, at least in some cases. In any case, the idea that PBS will disavow a station for its own choices of programming is ludicrous. With the advent of cable networks and independent choices of programming sources, stations may decide they don't want to be dictated to by a bunch of cake-eaters in Washington, political leanings notwithstanding, and some could decide to blow them off altogether.

  10. If PBS decides to ban broadcast of the Mass from the airways, Catholics should seriously consider withholding their donations from the network. This is unacceptable bigotry of people of faith and it should not be tolerated, especially from a "public" broadcaster like PBS.

  11. Anonymous:

    I spent part of my internship in public television. Please read my earlier comment.

    PBS has disclosed its intentions, but may not be in a position by itself to "ban" anything. What will determine the outcome will most likely be the responses of the local stations.

  12. "the idea that PBS will disavow a station for its own choices of programming is ludicrous"

    Doesn't seem ludicrous to me as this is exactly what is being proposed and WHUT has already said it will comply.

    There are likely not too many affiliates carrying "sectarian" programming anyway. The likelihood that they would not capitulate seems hardly a forgone conclusion.

    Perhaps they will, at the end of the day, push back hard enough to prevent the implementation of this rule, but it hardly seems ludicrous.

  13. Okay, I'll concede about WHUT, apparently. But I suspect that was an early reaction. There are many cities in the country whose local stations have differing views on the needs of their audience. This is especially the case with those who rely entirely on community support.

    I'm also thinking in terms of the potential reaction from "flyover country." In nearly three decades of living in DC, I can tell you that people on the East Coast really don't "get" the Midwest.


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