PBS Mulls Cutting Ties Over 'Sectarian' Content

PBS's board of directors will be voting next month on whether to strip affiliation from any station that carries content that is not "nonsectarian."

Though PBS stations have been required to carry only nonsectarian programs since 1985, a small portion of the 356 PBS member stations carry broadcasts of religious services, as the definition of "nonsectarian" was loosely interpreted and the rule never strictly enforced.

Should the board decide to cut ties with such stations, programs from "Sesame Street" to "Frontline" would no longer be allowed to air on them.

 "We don't want to lose our association with PBS, because they provide a lot of fine programs," commented Ron Yager, the vice president and general manager of WLAE in New Orleans, which airs a daily telecast of Catholic Mass.

"But at the same time, we need to serve our community. We've built an identity around this. People know us for this," he told The Washington Post.

PBS spokeswoman Jan McNamara, meanwhile, declined specific comment, saying only, "We're still gathering feedback from our members to see where they stand."

PBS stations are commonly operated by non-profit organizations, state agencies, local authorities, or universities in their community of license. In some states, PBS stations throughout the entire state may be organized into a single regional "subnetwork."

The upcoming PBS Board and Committee Meetings are scheduled to be held in Arlington, Va., June 14-16. Unlike the annual members' meeting held last Monday, the gathering will not be open to the public.