Thursday, June 18, 2009

PBS Bans Sectarians Like You

For some people, PBS isn’t just home to costume dramas, interminably long Ken Burns documentaries, non-stop pledge drives, shrill British sitcoms, and NOVA. It’s also an outlet for religious programming. And I’m not talking about in-depth exposes on the Mormon church. Some PBS stations broadcast religious services such as masses and sermons and World Championship Goat Sacrificing. Well, maybe not that last one. It’s on SpikeTV. But you’d think an organization that receives such a large amount of federal funding wouldn’t be allowed to broadcast religious services, since that seems to be skirting the line of the separation between church and state-sponsored TV. Well, you’d be sort of right. PBS has long banned the broadcast of “sectarian” programming, but that ban has always been loosely interpreted or just outright ignored. Anything short of ululation contests and live beheadings has traditionally skirted under the “sectarian” bar. But not anymore. PBS’s board of directors has decided to enforce the ban more strictly, barring any member station from airing new religious programming. Stations that are already airing regular religious services will be allowed to continue, however, which is good news for people to lazy to go to church and too cheap to buy cable. And even though I’m a God-hating Satanist who drinks only puppy blood and children’s tears, I’m kind of okay with this arrangement. Not all of a local PBS station’s funding comes from the government, and the fees paid to these stations by religious organizations who want to broadcast might be enough to keep them from begging for cash every five minutes. I’m willing to give up an hour or so every Sunday morning for the chance to watch an entire Charlie Rose interview without hearing about how much shit I can carry in a PBS tote bag. More details here.