Jun 16, 2012

Alabama ETV commissioner says attorneys deem religious-right videos "appropriate" for public TV

A member of the Alabama Educational Television Commission said it has consulted attorneys on the legality of airing programming produced by a controversial conservative historian, The Associated Press reports. The request by Commissioner Rodney Herring to run the content appears to be linked to the sudden terminations of Alabama Public Television Executive Director Allan Pizzato and his deputy, Pauline Howland, by the commission on June 12.

The programs include videos by David Barton, whose WallBuilders organization says on its website that its goal is to "exert a direct and positive influence in government, education, and the family by (1) educating the nation concerning the Godly foundation of our country; (2) providing information to federal, state, and local officials as they develop public policies which reflect Biblical values; and (3) encouraging Christians to be involved in the civic arena." Barton's American Heritage Series runs on Christian broadcast networks Cornerstone Television and Trinity Broadcasting Networks.

"The material is appropriate for public television according to the attorneys we have consulted," Herring, a chiropractor in Opelika, told AP. "(But) there will be no change in Alabama Public Television programming . . . for at least two or three months."

ETV Commission Chair Ferris Stephens, an assistant attorney general for the state, told Current that the board wants to take APT "in a new direction.”

Soon after the terminations of Pizatto and Howland, four members of the Alabama Educational Television Foundation Authority board resigned in protest. The authority board consists of the seven Educational Television Commissioners as well as five members appointed by the commission. Resignations included Authority Chair Joe Mays.