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PBS Ombudsman

The Mailbag

Here's a sampling of mail from viewers reacting to recent PBS programs and decisions that have been the subject of ombudsman's columns in the past week dealing with broadcasts of NOW on PBS about anti-abortion actions, and about the PBS Board's decision regarding religious programming.

On NOW and the Murder of Dr. Tiller

Thank you so much for your excellent show about the threat to abortion providers. Of course there will be complaints about the truths you revealed. Your courage as journalists makes my world and the world of my grandchildren safer!

Marjorie Ford, Tucson, AZ

We know abortion is very polarizing. We know some will kill abortion doctors. Of course that is murder and, besides being against the law, morally wrong. But, we also know some amazing things about fetuses because of cameras in the womb. Things like they respond to music, things like they feel pain and display a silent scream during an abortion. We also know that they have unique DNA and a unique heartbeat so it's not true that abortion is just about a woman having freedom over her own body. So, any reason why some of these things are being left out of some of your broadcasts like the one about Tiller or the one about music?

Boston, MA

Good Column . . . good remarks . . . too bad some cannot stand another viewpoint.

Karin Hazelhoff

Maria Hinojosa's NOW program on the terrorists who kill abortion clinic doctors was an excellent one. Everyone needed to have heard it, not just the comparatively few who watch PBS. As someone else pointed out to me, the right-wing has everything but PBS. This show WAS FAIR; it made it perfectly clear what the terrorists' views were and even treated the anti-abortion views respectfully. This is the ONLY time any half-way liberal views get aired, the ONLY time those who don't know learn that these doctors performing late term abortions are helping women with difficult choices.

I never had to have an abortion but doctors like Dr. Tiller being available to help women who have problem pregnancies makes MY life better TOO just knowing there is help if one is ever in need. I find it abhorrent that I live in a country where these vicious terrorists are not jailed as quickly as any other type of terrorists would be. I find it abhorrent that Dr. Tiller had to live under such harassment when he had asked for help from the feds. Thinking, caring people need to turn in all of the terrorists who are restricting women's rights.


On the Nonsectarian Programming Decision

Kudos to PBS for having a non-sectarian policy! You have fantastic programming that intelligent people can enjoy. Don't let the religious fundamentalists bully you. They can get their religion in church. Non religious people don't want to watch their dogma on TV. More and more people are becoming secular because they don't wish to be associated with such small minds.

Great story on Dr. Tiller and right-wing terrorism.

Tammy Wright, Sioux Lookout

Re the no religious broadcasting . . . please then remove Wayne Dyer from your begathon. He is as New Age as they come. I have noticed over the past several years you have also done away with over HALF (at least at WETA and WMPT) of the British Comedies. More Hispanic and more "ethnic" you have become. It doesn't interest me. Where I used to do the "whole enchilada" in supporting PBS I no longer support it at all. We pay for it through our hefty cable bill and that is enough. Many of us are encouraging our representatives to forego funding for "PUBLIC" broadcasting. You are FAR from non-political.

M. Smith, Woodbridge, VA

I believe that I must agree with many of the people that have already written you. I am disgusted with PBS. It's not just that you are taking off the religious material, you are allowing programs that uplift abortionists and left-winged politicians. Your programming has gone from wholesome to disgusting. What next, will you be televising gay marriages, homosexuals on sesame street, or more of your idiotic opinions?

Jessica Bethke, Lewisville, TX

If PBS's whole reason for being is to provide the American public with a forum within which the views of everyone may be expressed, it makes no sense to me why its administration would deny equal access to some solely on the basis of what it (subjectively) defines as sectarian. Let's not get lost in abstractions about this — The effect of this decision clearly favors the political left in this country, and alienates a lot of citizens who deviate from party-line political correctness. Citing the board's "compromise" with regard to allowing previously run programs to continue is no rejoinder to this, since the effect of such a compromise will be for such programs to be phased out slowly. I see grounds for such a concession other than avoiding public outcry.

The irony of this whole thing is that the very rationale for this change in policy was to foster pluralism, yet the only voices now permitted to speak on PBS are those that openly or tacitly sanction the "pluralistic" views of its board of directors. Far from moving toward its ostensible goal in this decision, Public Broadcasting has only shifted itself further into a kind of political provincialism. This is a very sad day for PBS.

C. Shea, Saint Louis, MO

Stepped Over and Standing Up

I have always loved PBS and thought you were a clear beacon of good programming when there is so much garbage on TV, but like so many others these days you too have not realized what the 'others' are trying to do: the systematic removal of God in this nation! That is a very wrong decision. We were founded on Christian values and while there is a separation of church and state we have the right and freedom of religion, not from it as stated in the Constitution itself . . . thoughs that have the faith to stand for what is right will continue to stand firm in their faith in God and thoughs that are the weak of today, think they can do anything with their lives bunch will see what happens to a nation the was found on faith but turned its back when we fall into ruins that what you all want that do not believe we have the right to religion, faith and to have quality programming somewhere on the TV . . . look at all the stations that present your smut . . . we want quality TV for us and our children as well as you like yours. I am very disappointed in PBS and will never give another dime. You course people all the time to fund you, well you just blew a hole in your finances with this foolish move. We have not been a very vocal group in the past, us Christians, but just watch us now . . . we being stepped all over and we will stand up and be heard. We do not want to see God's blessings on this nation end. Nor do we want the freedom and right to have what we want as much as you do! PBS you have failed in a truly cowardly way to cave to Washingtons anti God, anti faith and anti morals clap trap! God forgive you all for you have no idea what you do!!!!!!!

R. H., Mesa, AZ

I read part of what you wrote about the separation of church and state as it somewhat pertains to my original criticism. In recent years, even more than in the past, PBS has become a fanatical proponent of Zionism and the cause of Israeli terrorism. No real opposition is ever heard. One of the worst offenders (though far from the only one) has been the Charlie Rose Show. For example the attempt of Israeli Twitter to destabilize the government of Iran has been applauded. What if the supporters of Al Gore had been encouraged to riot in the street by a foreign government with messages written in a foreign language?

Rita Biddle, Denver, CO

Well, I was going to tell you all the things on my mind about this decision but I can see "YOU" have already made up your mind so I will not confuse you with the facts as I see them.

Bob Hyde Sr., Vista, CA

I was appalled to learn that PBS will not produce/air religious programming in the future. I love PBS and NPR. Your programs help me to stay informed about current events, other cultures and in the past other religions. You have made it possible for people like me to have a voice — where we don't have one on regular broadcast television and radio.

Where will I be able to turn now? I certainly don't expect mainstream media to suddenly produce and air quality, thoughtful, informative programming on religion. With PBS out of the arena, will we be forced to rely on religious stations for related content? I submit to you that the possibility that stations with a particular religious bias will present ALL the information, including that which challenges their own dogma is slight at best.

Please reconsider this decision. To the argument that tax dollars should not go into religious programming, fine, do not fund said programming with tax dollars, but with the other 84% which comes from viewers like myself.

Briget Petroniero, Denver, CO

Read First, Write Second

My goodness! It is difficult to get through some of the comments regarding the decision on religious programming! Some of them are quite abusive and wouldn't be accepted on a lot of blogs.

Firstly, many of the commenters have implied that PBS is stopping all religious programming, which it is not. One wonders if they read the full report before they ran to the keyboard? Personally, I don't think compromise is appropriate; change the rules if you must, but stick to them in the meantime. It's actually inexcusable that the rules have been openly violated for so long. Having said that, I am not a mean person and if a lot of elderly people depend on these programs, I can accept the compromise without having an emotional meltdown. It might be interesting to put this question to the NY Times ethicist, Randy Cohen!

Secondly, of course these same people always complain that PBS is "leftie" in their programming. I guess that's because you offer science and history programs actually based on science. What these people should say is: "I don't like your programming because it is at odds with my 'faith'".

I, too, am appalled at the creeping commercialism, but where were those voices when the republican congress was gutting PBS's funds? Personally, I'd like to have the British system — a yearly fee (like car registration and license plate renewal, etc.) and fully fund a national network. As with health care, most all other first world countries have this.

Janet Camp, Milwaukee, WI

I am deeply disappointed by the Board's decision. It shows the continued lack of understanding of the meaning of the separation of church and state. Instead you are cutting off millions of people from programming that they depend on because of your own or other persons dislike of religion. I have supported Public television and radio in the past. I will not do so in the future. I will however continue to pray for the conversion of all the policy makers who are leading our country on such a destructive path.

Virginia Hughes, Boonton, NJ

I agree with the decision not to allow more new religious programming. Educational programs about various religions are fine.

Mary Davidson, Lawrence, KS

No religion on PBS. No donations to PBS! You have your choice, and so do I.

C. Barton, Mississauga

Although this decision regarding religious programming is not surprising I have a couple of questions. Will you continue to run Religion & Ethics Newsweekly? This program offers critique on religion which would seem out of bounds considering you won't show what you're criticizing. Also, will this mean the end of the New Age Religious programming (Wayne Dyer, Dr. Andrew Weil, etc.)? If these shows are not shown the same treatment it will constitute bias.

Suellen Brewster, Buffalo, NY

My local church thanks PBS for increasing its income by the amount I formerly gave to my local PBS station. The constant badgering for money and the increasing time devoted to commercials [excuse me, supporter recognition] plus the edict to not allow "religious" programming has made the decision easy.

Fred Young, Tucson, AZ

Sir: I have the option of turning off religious things, I am not forced to watch everything on PBS.

I have a bigger problem with the 'noncommercial' statement. Whenever there is a fund drive, the talking heads (especially) provide books and other 'gifts' for additional money. Since when is this 'noncommercial'. While PBS may derive added funds, the individual companies supplying the 'free' gifts are making a profit. There is no such thing as a Free Lunch. Also I don't find the talking heads supply valid information as they are too busy looking for sales and a profit.

Tillie Krieger, Eugene, OR

Regarding the new restrictions on the religious programming on stations that broadcast PBS content, it certainly seems like a decent compromise to me. The unhappy (and sometimes ugly) comments from the pro-religious content people certainly show the hot emotions that things like this can cause, but after all, PBS is PBS, not PBS for Jesus.

Hugh Caley, Albany, CA

PBS, funded by taxpayer dollars, should represent all the people who pay those taxes. Sadly, this is not the case, and will be even less so with the recent decision to restrict religious broadcasting. However, this newfound attention to the rules should result in a cessation of politically liberal programming as well. Just about anything by Bill Moyers comes to mind . . .

Shaune Scott, Miami, FL

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