Texas Gubernatorial Hopefuls Sue PBS Affiliate

AUSTIN, TEXAS: Four Democratic candidates for the Texas governorship are suing a public TV station they say excluded them from a debate.

Dr. Alma Ludivina Aguado, Star Locke, Felix Alvarado, and Clement Glen filed a $400 million lawsuit in U.S. Federal Court in Travis County, Texas, against KERA-TV and its owner, The North Texas Public Broadcasting, “for being excluded from the statewide Democratic debate on television on Feb. 8, 2010,” the group said in a joint release.

All four candidates were excluded by the Television Station from joining in the statewide debate as they, did not meet a vague, subjective and flexible criteria. All Candidates are legal candidates, but yet were excluded from a chance to air their views in a public debate.

“Globalization has increased the gap between the poor and the wealthy in Texas creating an arcane culture of non competition,” Dr. Aguado said. “This non-Democratic favoritism shown on behalf of wealthy candidates shown on public television discourages minorities, the poor, underprivileged and the politically underrepresented from voting.”

In a statement released to local news outlets, KERA said, “We are disappointed that these candidates have chosen to ignore years of judicial precedents upholding our right to use viewpoint neutral criteria in selecting candidates to participate in the Texas Debates. We are confident in our debate policy, and we will seek the speedy dismissal of this complaint as we have successfully with others in the past.”

Candidates must be actively campaigning and register 6 percentage points in an “established, nonpartisan poll” to be included, San Antonio CBS affiliate, KENS-TV said.

Former Houston Mayor Bill White and Texas businessman Farouk Shami did appear in the telecast, which originated from the studios of CBS O&O KTVT-TV. That station, it’s sister, KTXA-TV, along with KUVN-TV, the Star-Telegram, the Texas Association of Broadcasters, Texas State Networks and the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas were partners in the production.

The lawsuit is the second action in recent weeks from candidates over exclusion from televised debates. Jacob Meister filed a complaint with the FCC against WTTW-TV, a PBS member station in Chicago, over being left out of a debate. (See “U.S. Senate Candidate Files Complaint on Chicago TV Station.”)