Excerpts of PBS Blesses Old Religious Shows, But Bans the New by Paul Farhi, Washington Post
The Public Broadcasting Service agreed yesterday to ban its member stations from airing new religious TV programs, but permitted the handful of stations that already carry "sectarian" shows to continue doing so.
The vote by PBS's board was a compromise from a proposed ban on all religious programming. Such a ban would have forced a few stations around the country to give up their PBS affiliation if they continued to broadcast local church services and religious lectures.
Until now, PBS stations have been required to present programming that is noncommercial, nonpartisan and nonsectarian. But the definition of "nonsectarian" programming was always loosely interpreted, and the rule had never been strictly enforced. PBS began reviewing the definition and application of those rules last year in light of the transition to digital TV and with many stations streaming programs over their Web sites. The definition doesn't cover journalistic programs about religion or discussion programs that don't favor a particular religious point of view.
The vote at PBS's headquarters in Arlington was good news for five PBS member stations that carry religious programs. Among them are KBYU in Salt Lake City, which is operated by an affiliate of the Mormon Church; KMBH in Harlingen, Tex., operated by the local Catholic diocese; and WLAE in New Orleans, operated by a Catholic lay organization.