Citing concerns about “public trust” the national board for PBS has voted to strictly ban new religious or sectarian programming. There was already a 1985 rule, but it was loosely interpreted and the Mass for Shut-Ins offered by various dioceses was not seen as a serious violation. Indeed, many interpreted the weekly half-hour Mass as a public service to the sick and elderly who suffered in conscience about missing Sunday Mass.
Despite the loophole in favor of current programming, PBS affiliate WHUT 32 in Washington, D.C. had already decided to end its 13 year tradition of broadcasting a weekly Mass to avoid violating membership rules.
“This is community-based, locally produced programming that fills a community need,” said Susan Gibbs, director of Communications for the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington. “PBS is respecting that there is a history of programming,” Gibbs added. “It’s unfortunate it’s not going to continue for us.”
No longer sympathetic to people of faith, Public Television has narrowed the scope of the public to which they will appeal. Old and sick Catholics do not matter anymore. Public Television can make room on their schedule for other types of shows. They have science programs which promote an atheistic and materialistic view of reality. There are documentaries which minimize the role of religion, except as an evil in human history. We are exposed to the rhetoric of new age gurus who strangely escape the filter of sectarianism. There are regular gay news programs which promote perversity as positive diversity. All these things are deemed appropriate, but the powers-that-be feel the public is somehow threatened by a rushed early morning thirty-minute Mass for a few poor Catholics.
I would encourage our Seniors, the homebound and the Catholic community as a whole to speak out and to withhold any further financial support to the stations in the PBS network. Religion, no matter whether it is Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Moslem, Buddhist, or Hindu should have the same access to Public Television as other groups. Why should religion be the one form of speech that is censored and prohibited?
Ron Yager, general manager of New Orleans affiliate WLAE, said his station was “very satisfied” that the shut-ins and the home-bound among its viewers can continue to view the daily Mass, which he said was “vital” to them. I suppose the Washington affiliate WHUT (Howard University) feels that it should be less open and that its viewers do not matter as much as those in other areas of the country.