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Sunday Discussion: Alabama Public TV



Alabama Public Television has been in the news lately and none of it has been good.  The controversy started when Alabama Public Television Executive Director Allan Pizzato and Deputy Director and CFO Pauline Howland were fired in June.  The reasons why they were fired was because they opposed airing David Barton’s American Heritage Series, and because of possible problems of money at APT.  The David Barton series is a set of documentaries examining the new version of history that has assaulted the moral and spiritual fiber of our nation.  The series is produced by WallBuilders; and the person running WallBuilders is David Barton.  Another reason why the people were fired is because the former employees refused to remove ‘sexual orientation’ from the APT diversity statement.  Early on I fought this was nothing too big but this story gets worse.

The firings of Pizzato and Howland resulted in many supporters cutting their pledges to APT, and the resignation of all non-Commission members of the station’s fundraising team, as well as five of the seven members on the Board of Directors.  The latest person to resign from APT is COO Charles Grantham who started working for APT in 1978.  He wrote a letter to Gov. Bentley warning that the firings could “lead to the demise of public television in Alabama.”  The reason why he quit in his own words: “The recent happenings at APT have caused me to no longer trust the long-term goals of the Commission.”  Sadly all of the people leaving APT has not done much to prevent the David Barton series from airing on APT.   Rodney Herring, who is one of the commissioners at APT and a current member of the Alabama Republican Party Executive Committee, said he still believes Barton’s documentaries to be “appropriate for public television, according to the attorneys we have consulted.”

APT has aired some programs that has talked about religion before but in my opinion the American Heritage Series is programming that is not a good fit for public television.  The Southern Poverty Law Center has said that David Barton is an extremist propagandist who regularly propagates known falsehoods, defames gay people, Muslims and others he doesn’t like, and doesn’t believe that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. deserves a place in our high school textbooks.  Have you heard some of the things David Barton has said before.  First; he said America should regulate and outlaw homosexuality.

David Barton also said that Jesus opposed the minimum wage and the Bible should be the guide for taxes.

Mike Huckabee said he thinks everyone should be forced to listen to David Barton from gunpoint.  I would be dead.

Glenn Beck and David Barton have proposed offering two-week long indoctrination camps to help prepare students to fight off all the counterfeit history they will encounter when they go off to college.  I would not attend this.

Alabama Public Television was formed way back in the 1950’s and was the first state in the nation to start a statewide educational television network.  The network has produced several documentaries in Alabama that has won numerous awards.  Discovering Alabama has shown the beauty Alabama has to offer.  APT used to help the people in Alabama keep up with the latest news in Alabama government.  Budget cuts and money problems have kept down the news shows and my opinion of Capital Journal is it sucks!  And APT plays a huge role in helping to educate people.  APT airs shows to help people earn a GED and work on the job.  And APT offers APT Plus to help educate the children of Alabama in the classroom.  Why would a few commissioners on the APT board ruin all of the great things APT does for Alabama?

Luckily this story has garnered national attention and many people are talking about it.  A group of Birmingham area religious leaders delivered 114,000 petition signatures calling on APT to not air this misleading and hateful programming and to reinstate top management. And there is a lot of pressure on the commissioners at APT to not air the American Heritage Series.  But will the commissioners and the state legislators listen?

It would be sad if APT went off the air for good.  And my gut feeling is telling me that APT will be no more one year from now.  And I have thought of several scenarios that could end APT.

APT had to face budget cuts along with many other state agencies.  The state has cut its appropriation for Alabama Public Television in half.  And APT closed down their Montgomery bureau and moved everything to Birmingham.  It has also had to lay off 19 workers and end production on several original programs including We Have Signal.  Both sides of this controversy have lawyered up as they prepare to go to court over the firings.  I hope APT is still around for many years to come.  But if I was PBS; I would start looking to replace APT in Alabama.  Because I feel like APT will not be around for long.  Sad!


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