US Taliban Alabama: Right-Wing Public TV Putsch Exposed

Public TV in the US–originally begun as ‘Educational TV” for returning shoolkids and college courses by TV– is increasingly libertarian-oriented private TV of public character funded not be coerced taxes but member and voluntary contributions to inform the public on science and civic affairs from a neutral viewpoint, and pre-school and youth educational shows. This does not stop the extreme right-wing of Alabama–hiding behind calls to faith and purported ‘free-markets’–to attempt a putsch that appears intent on a plot to turn Public TV into an extremist anti-gay/LGBT , anti-tolerance, anti-free markets, and religious  propaganda organ with bizarre claims that th US Founders intended it to be an anti-Semitic ‘Christian’ nation. Their entry point was a residual government board instead of complete copnversion to an autonomous public institution, and is being planned and promoted, say critics, by extreme faith/anti-reason religious groups such as ‘Wallbuilders…’

LI teams have met to monitor the matter, and have contacted ACLU on a possible suit if this goes too far. GLBT and other rights groups are also talking with interested attorneys.


On Our Radar – The Religious Right’s Coup Against Alabama Public TV

by Jean Ann Esselink on July 1, 2012

in Analysis,Jean Ann Esselink,Media

Alabama Public Television appears to have been taken over by the board assigned to oversee its operation. Religious zealots on the board insist the station air “educational” programs touting themes like creationism and how the Constitution is based on the bible. Today, Alabama Public TV and the line between “information” and “indoctrination” are On Our Radar.

While the country’s attention was riveted on the always entertaining Supreme Court, you may have missed the Religious Right’s coup-in-progress, being waged in Alabama. On one side is Alan Pizzato, director of Alabama Public Television, (APTV) who has the radical idea that history programming should reflect, well, history. On the other side are the chairman of the commission Ferris Stevens, and his faithful sidekick Commissioner Rod Herring, whose day job is chiropractic manipulation. Chairman Stevens has announced a “new approach” for APTV, which all evidence indicates will include Christian indoctrination programs by WallBuilders. If you have never run into them before, WallBuilders is the publishing outlet of fundamentalist Christian pseudo-history, rewritten from the original by Texas evangelist and self-declared historian, (not to leave out notorious homophobe,) David Barton.

The campaign opened June 12th with a good old-fashioned massacre. During a routine meeting of the commission and APTV executives, Director Alan Pizzato, and Chief Financial Officer Pauline Howland were summarily and quite unexpectedly fired. The two were told to clean out their desks immediately, and were escorted from the building, not allowed to say so much as a “nice working with you” on their way out. Pizzato had run APTV for twelve years, and was well-respected both inside the workplace and in the community. Last year he was honored with the Birmingham Business Journal’s CEO Award for Nonprofit Businesses.

The people who worked for Pizzato were stunned. Shortly after hearing of the terminations, three members of the panel that raises operating funds for the non-profit suddenly quit. Allyson Ed­wards, Robert Nesbitt and the panel’s chairman Joe Mays, a dedicated APTV veteran of 20 years, all submitted their resignations in an apparent protest.

The Swiss cheese minutes of the meeting discovered by WBHM, the National Public Radio affiliate in Birmingham, are strangely non-committal about the reason for the termination–unless you know how to read between the lines:

We know Chairman Stevens is on record admitting Pizzato and Herring tangled over WallBuilders programming at the previous commission meeting. We also know Pauline Howland told reporters Pizzato thought WallBuilders material was inappropriate due to its religious nature.

We might infer that this prior meeting was more contentious than was made public, and that Pizzato may have told Herring he thought showing WallBuilders religious-themed programs violated their charter, or was in some way legally questionable. We could deduce this because between that prior blow up and the meeting where Pizzato was fired, Herring consulted a lawyer. Herring himself announced to the press in another context, that the lawyers he had talked to had given a thumbs up to the new faux-history fare.

In the minutes uncovered by WBHM, Pizzato makes an observation that Herring was unhappy with the station presenting programming about evolution. In what appears to be an effort to placate Herring, Pizzato announced he had scheduled a (non-WallBuilders) show about creationism to air in the fall.

The minutes pause at this point for an off the record discussion of which Herring said: “We went into executive session, discussed certain issues of a personal nature, and decided to make changes.”

The next thing we know security is escorting Pizzato and Howland off the APTV premises.

The board has taken the “nothing to see here, move along” approach to the firings, denying any suggestion that including WallBuilders (Who?) in the station’s schedule was a major issue of contention. When asked why Pizzato had put WallBuilders on the meeting’s agenda Herring claimed disingenuously, “We never got to it, so I don’t know what it was about,” (Hint to Dr. Herring: Perhaps it was about whatever thorny matter resulted in you seeking a legal opinion on the suitability of airing Christian propaganda on Public TV.)…

…If the commission hoped to quietly change Alabama Public Television while no one was paying attention, it appears they are going to be disappointed. A faith-based progressive group, Faithful America, has collected more than 10,000 signatures on their petition to keep WallBuilders fare off public TV. The petition asks the leaders of the Alabama Educational Television Commission to “reinstate these staffers and keep Religious Right hate off their stations.” In addition, this week, the firm of White, Arnold and Dowd sent the commission a notice of hold, requesting they preserve all related documents, a signal that a lawsuit is in the offing.



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