A new policy at GrassRoots
November 12, 2007
GrassRoots TV12 was recently faced with a rather difficult decision. Throughout the history of GrassRoots TV12, some 35 years, we have enabled and encouraged our community to have open access to the television medium. Indeed, it was and still is an important part of the GrassRoots TV12 mission to provide cable access, and to remove political, technical, social and economic barriers to access for local residents.
This mission, and the purpose of GrassRoots TV12, has been enjoyed by countless people in our community, and we believe that we have successfully provided a very valuable service that has always tried to educate, enlighten, and most importantly, entertain our viewers.
Recently, one of the members of our community submitted a film to be shown on GrassRoots TV12 produced by an Australian Holocaust denial or “revisionist” group named the Adelaide Institute. This film, “Judea Declares War on Germany,” was appropriately prescreened by both the staff and board of GrassRoots TV12 prior to airing. After this prescreening, it seemed readily apparent to the board that this film presented patently inflammatory and obscene subject matter.
Notwithstanding the board’s preliminary opinion, we invited our community to an open board meeting to present opinion on whether or not GrassRoots TV12 should broadcast this film. GrassRoots TV12 is a community asset, and as such, the community should be given every opportunity to provide input on any matter that the board sees fit. The results of the community input at this meeting were overwhelmingly in favor of not airing the film.
There were several members of our community who were in favor of airing the film. This support centered on GrassRoots TV12’s long-standing support of unfettered free speech. There was almost no support to air the film based on its subject matter; nearly everyone who was familiar with the film, or its subject matter, regarded it as offensive.
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In response to this community’s confirmation of the board’s opinion, the decision was made to not air the film. Additionally, new policy has been implemented at GrassRoots TV12, effective immediately. That policy reads: “It is the policy of Grassroots Television, in accordance with the Cable Communications Act, to not air material that is obscene. In this regard, obscene material is that which is grossly repugnant to community notions of appropriateness and includes any material that promotes hate or is designed to denigrate any racial, ethnic, religious, gender or sexual orientation group.”
While GrassRoots TV12 is supportive of an open-door policy with respect to what members of our community want to broadcast on cable television, the board, with support from this community, recognizes that this policy must have some boundaries. Therefore, submissions which promote obscenity, whether prurient or otherwise, will not be accepted. Thankfully, those boundaries have rarely been tested in the past, and we all hope they will not be tested in the future.
GrassRoots TV12 is, as always, a community asset, and any member of the community can come to the station, and for a nominal charge, produce a program. In fact, we would like the community to know that the proponent of the film in question had been asked to come on the station and produce a civil, dialogue-based show that debates whatever issues he would like debated. He, however, rejected this opportunity; even after members of the board generously offered to underwrite the costs to produce this program.
The community should also know that the board and staff of GrassRoots TV12 did not take this matter lightly. The board is comprised of local community members who volunteer their time, and we have been inundated with correspondence from far and wide, both applauding and condemning this decision. Some members of the board have been threatened with legal action over the decision as well being on the receiving end of personal attacks. This matter, while perhaps trivial to some, has taken up many hours of time and energy from the volunteer board and I, for one, am very proud of the commitment the board members have shown to their obligation.
All in all, the board is comfortable with its decision, and more importantly, heartened by the support and attention given to GrassRoots TV12 by this community. Regardless of whether or not you agree with the board’s decision, we hope that you recognize the value that GrassRoots TV12 brings to our community.
President, board of directors