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PBS Nixes Church Chats

ARLINGTON, VA.: The Public Broadcasting Service is prohibiting member stations from adding new religious TV shows, reports indicate. The Washington Post said the PBS board voted to allow “a handful of stations” already carrying religious content to continue doing so. A complete ban would have forced several stations to choose between long-time PBS affiliations and airing church services that some have carried for decades.

As a result, stations such as WLAE-TV in New Orleans can continue airing Catholic Mass services, as it has done for 25 years. WLAE-TV is part-owned by Willwoods Community, a local Catholic organization.
“There are a lot of people who rely on that [Mass],” WLAE station manager Ron Yager told Catholic Culture. “On certain occasions when we don’t have the Mass for technical reasons, the phones are ringing. If we had to take it off, I don’t know what the people who rely on it would do--the elderly, the sick, people who can’t get out to church. This means a lot to them… After [Hurricane Katrina] and we were able to get back in our studios, and people were asking us to put things back on the air, it wasn’t ‘Barney’ or ‘Sesame Street’ or ‘NewsHour’ they were asking for. They were asking for the Mass.”
WHUT-TV in Washington D.C. also can continue airing a mass for shut-ins, which it’s done for 13 years. The Archdiocese of Washington, the show’s producer, nonetheless made an alternative arrangement in anticipation of an all-out ban.

The PBS board voted to allow its members to air religious content on digital secondary channels and Web sites as long as those platforms did not include PBS programming or branding. -- Deborah D. McAdams