A right-wing commentator will be allowed to continue broadcasting a cable television show that celebrates Nazis, insults blacks and gays, and has shown videos of the beheadings of hostages in Iraq.
The board of the community-access cable channel decided that John Long's show is ugly and confrontational but that he has a right to produce his show and use Channel 15 as his broadcasting "soapbox." They pointed to Vermont Community Access Media's mission to support "unfettered free speech" and "public dialogue."
Long bills himself as "Mr. Happy." He aims his community-access television program, How Do You Like Me Now?, at what he calls "scumbag" liberals.
Four viewers, however, said Long's program amounted to an abuse of free speech. They presented the board with a petition signed by 250 other viewers. It asked the public-access directors to devise "more stringent and more consistent means of determining programming appropriate for the viewing public, particularly those programs which contain graphic violence." Six of the station's 11 board members attended the meeting Monday.
Christina Brown, a South Burlington elementary school teacher who circulated the petition after inadvertently viewing a beheading while channel surfing last month, called Long's program "obscene" and "irresponsible." She argued that Long's program should be moved to a later hour to lessen the
chance of children seeing it. "Kids don't have the judgment to turn it off," said Kathy Murphy, an
elementary school teacher. "It frightens me that it comes into my living room," she said. "I'm not sure where you draw the line," she said of images that can be broadcast on public-access TV, "but this was over the line."
Long spoke of what he called leftist attempts to censor his show. He showed the beheading videos, he said, "to show the enemy we're up against. I think they should be seen by every American and every Vermonter."
Terrorists, he said, made the videos to "weaken our will to fight." It wasn't his responsibility, he said, to wait until those who disliked his program were in bed.
The hour-long program airs at 12:30 a.m. Mondays, 1 a.m. Tuesdays, and 11 p.m. Wednesdays. Channel 15's executive director, Rob Chapman, said the schedule would continue. The public-access station's purpose is to give individuals the equipment and facilities they need to produce noncommercial programming for local communities, according to the station's Web site. The broadcasts reach about 30,000 cable subscribers in the Burlington area. (AP)