Fort Hood-Area Residents Screwed by Their Local PBS Station

[EDIT: Mary Beth Harrell's campaign says it has been notified that KNCT has reversed the decision detailed below, and will air the episode of NOW on Monday evening at 8pm. Also, the complete episode may be viewed anytime on NOW's Web site.]

KNCT, Killeen's PBS station, did a tremendous disservice to its Fort Hood-area viewership on Friday by refusing to show the NOW national political news program that focused on the Congressional District 31 race. The program did an excellent job profiling the two leading candidates, Republican incumbent John Carter and Democratic challenger Mary Beth Harrell, and how their views of the Iraq war are affecting their campaigns in this military-heavy district. Given that Carter has refused to debate Harrell even once during this campaign, it would have been a fine opportunity for District 31 residents to get educated on the race (funny – I always thought education was a core mission of public television). "[T]he Local PBS affiliate deliberately deprived the local community it serves the right to view the program," said Harrell's campaign in a press release.

The rationale behind this idiotic decision? Jim Anderson, the chancellor of Killeen's Central Texas College, the sponsor school for KNCT, told the Austin American-Statesman that the station never planned to run the program because it did not interview Matt McAdoo, the Libertarian candidate. Perhaps someone should explain to Anderson the difference between a candidate's forum and a documentary news program. While I'm all for candidate debates including minor parties, there is certainly no obligation for a news program to waste resources on a candidate who has a minuscule constituency and simply has no chance of being a factor in the race.

Anderson told the Statesman that if McAdoo promises not to sue KNCT for failing to give lack of equal time to his candidacy, the station might run the program. That's ridiculous, and it amazes me that someone in charge of a major television station knows FCC rules so poorly – if FCC rules mandated "equal time" that strictly, then every news program in the nation, including PBS's Washington Week, The News Hour With Jim Lehrer, and other shows would have to be pulled from the air for failing to feature minor-party candidates. KNCT should immediately correct this disservice and show this program before Election Day, preferably in the same high-visibility prime time slot given to it by other stations serving the northern and southern ends of the district, Austin's KLRU and Waco's KWBU.

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