A Central Texas PBS affiliate thatblacked-out a PBS program that would have exposed their local Republikkkan congressman’s views on Iraq is brow-beten into airing the program after all.
The Killeen PBS station under fire for blacking out a program on local congressional candidates Friday night has agreed to air it tonight, station officials said Sunday.
Affiliate KNCT, which serves the Fort Hood-Killeen-Temple area, pulled the nationally televised “Now” program at the last minute Friday. The episode discusses the impact the Iraq war was having on the election, including Texas’ 31st Congressional District and Fort Hood.
KNCT gave several reasons for the last-minute decision, including concerns from the station’s general counsel that the show’s content violated federal requirements to give all candidates equal airtime.
But a senior producer for the New York-based show said Sunday that the show’s representatives had contacted KNCT officials on Wednesday and Thursday to give them a heads-up about the program and let them know that each of the District 31 candidates would be given exposure.
“I was surprised (the show was pulled) because we had discussions with them,” Joel Schwartzberg said.
“We like to get as much information as we can to the independent station (when a program features their area) so they can do complementary things,” like airing additional programming or adding links to the station’s Web site, he said.
Beyond that, Schwartzberg said, the five-year-old weekly news program is classified as a documentary, and “according to the Federal Communications Commission, it is exempt from having to present equal time.”
Friday’s show featured interviews with the area’s congressional candidates, U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, and Democratic challenger Mary Beth Harrell, to show how the war is affecting candidates and voters.
Harrell, whose son is serving in Iraq with the Fort Hood-based 4th Infantry Division, was outraged that the station pulled the show.
Harrell is in an uphill battle to unseat Carter, and her supporters suggested the show was pulled in an effort to hurt her campaign.
She announced on Saturday that she would file a complaint with the FCC if the show did not air and the station did not disclose full details about why the program was pulled.
KNCT said there were no political motivations behind the decision, but the explanation behind why it was pulled has continued to evolve.
On Friday evening, Harrell’s campaign said it was offered the equal-time rationale. On Saturday Anderson said part of the reason the show was pulled was because the station had not had time to review the content. Also on Saturday, Anderson said he did not learn about the show’s content until Friday morning. On Sunday, Anderson said the show was pulled was because the station was maintaining policy not to give political candidates exposure 72 hours before an election.
“They made a censorship decision,” [Harrell’s attorney, Gerry ] Hebert said, and as a result, “probably one of the most important communities that should see (the show)” didn’t get to.