According to a Washington Post article set to appear in tomorrow’s paper, KBYU may be in serious danger of losing its PBS affiliation if it continues to air Latter-day Saint devotionals and other religious programming. The Post writes:
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 that a station could no longer broadcast programs that the service distributes, from “Sesame Street” to “Frontline.”
PBS’s governing policy states that “PBS Member Stations shall provide only nonsectarian, nonpolitical, noncommercial educational content on all broadcast channel(s) and related media distribution platforms that use the PBS and/or PBS member brands.” But the Post notes that the “definition of ‘nonsectarian’ programming has always been loosely interpreted, and the rule has never been strictly enforced, according to PBS officials.”
The stricter interpretation of the PBS policy wouldn’t prohibit programs that cover religious topics per se, just the “religious services of faith-based groups.” This nonetheless seems like an interpretive nightmare as what exactly constitutes the “religious services of faith-based groups” is far from clear. Does Music and the Spoken Word make the cut? What about a Mormon Tabernacle Choir concert? The First Presidency’s Christmas or Easter messages?
KBYU is not the only station that stands to be affected by this, but unlike stations such as Howard University’s WHUT in Washington, D.C., which has signaled that it will cut its religious programming if the stricter interpretation of the Policy is approved, it’s unclear to me what the Church/BYU will do in this situation. Given that BYUTV is now widely available, I know some who don’t really see this as that big of deal. Barring religious programming (whatever that means exactly) strikes me as problematic though. What should be done here? Is this worth a fight?