Friday, February 02, 2007

Even More 'Hand Of God'

'Hand of God' might make KMBH appearance in March.


HARLINGEN - The board of directors for RGV Educational Broadcasting, which oversees KMBH-TV, said Thursday night that management would attempt to find an appropriate time in March to air the documentary "Hand of God."

The program on the child molestation scandal in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston caused local controversy when KMBH, the local Public Broadcasting System affiliate, did not air it at the usual "Frontline" prime-time slot on Jan. 16.

At a board of directors meeting Thursday, board chairman Bill Elliott allowed the public to speak.

"I would have been very interested to hear the real answers to these questions" about the program not airing, said Rio Hondo resident Ann Hope.

When asked if there would be any response to questions about why the station did not air the program, Elliott said, "This is not a debate."

Lisa Brodyaga of San Juan said she had been disappointed in the station's programming for some time, saying it "turned into Catholicism rather than education."

"Not showing 'Hand of God' was the last straw," she said. "That's what motivated me to come to this meeting ... I feel a duty to speak out."

Students at Texas State Technical College also were concerned, according to their instructor, Sally Bishop Merrill.

"I live for this station, but my students are asking, 'Why did the station not broadcast 'Hand of God?'" Merrill said. "What was the reason? I'm not particularly interested in the program, but my students in ethics and world religion are asking."

After the viewers spoke, Elliott addressed the issue of diverse programming. He said the station is working on raising funds to get more programming, but did not address "Hand of God."

At the end of the meeting, the last issue the directors addressed was the concerns from viewers about "Hand of God." Elliott asked the station's president and CEO, Monsignor Pedro Briseño, if it was possible to air the program at an "appropriate," prime-time slot.

Because the schedule for February already has been completed, nothing could be done, Briseño explained.

"I will look into the possibility during the month of March," Briseño said.

Briseño and Elliott said the possibility of airing the documentary in prime time would be discussed at their next meeting, which is officially March 19, but they anticipate holding the meeting earlier.

"In March, staff has time to find a slot so people can see it," Elliott said in an interview after the meeting.

Elliott said viewers who wish to see the documentary can call the station about receiving a free DVD.

"I think a great deal of the discussion has been some significant misunderstanding," he said. "I know that 'Hand of God' was important to some individuals and I appreciate that."

Call to Action-Rio Grande Valley, the local chapter of a national group seeking accountability in the Roman Catholic Church, requested that the program be aired in prime time and also requested that management make a public statement about the show not airing, calling it an "error in judgment."

When asked to respond to the request for a public statement, Elliott said, "I saw the request."

CTA-RGV member Edwin J. Cook of McAllen said directors still dismissed the issue of responding to the public's concerns.

"They were obviously standing behind Monsignor Briseño's statements, which doesn't make sense to me," Cook said. "It's a half-hearted attempt to rectify the situation ... It's a lame attempt to address the issue."

"Hand of God" will be shown for free at Cine El Rey in McAllen on Feb. 18 at 4:30 p.m.


Kanickers said...

Letter To The Editor:

Church, not just priests, are guilty


Great big kudos for running a front-page article on the Catholic cover-up. It is exactly what needs to happen.

The Catholic Church of the United States is guilty of a great many indecencies towards children and their parishioner parents. This is common knowledge, I believe, unless you have been living under a rock for a decade.

I correctly say the church is guilty, not just the pedophiliac priests. Virtually all the priests who were assaulting kids were then relocated by bishops and cardinals, who are now paying out millions of dollars in settlements on thousands of molestation charges.

The Catholic Church has hidden and perpetuated more homosexual pedophilia than any group I can think of, except those involved in child prostitution. The outrage every decent person should feel makes me wonder how this organization still exists.

What other group or company would dare show its face after hundreds of kids confessed they had been molested by its employees?

Ah, the Diocese of Brownsville, that's who. Aiding and abetting the cover-up. Hiding the truth when possible, when did that become the business of churches?

Jason Ellsworth

Anonymous said...

KMBH is becoming more a medium for catholic propaganda than education. Did you see the bishop's column today about how he will use both the "public" radio and TV for more catholic instruction?

Kanickers said...

I also received this first-hand account of the KMBH-TV Board Meeting:

Subject: Re: KMBH Board Meeting

I attended the KMBH board meeting yesterday evening. Although the board chair did allow members of the public to address the board, the allotted time was limited to three minutes for each individual, and no more than 10 minutes for all speakers. Anyone interested in addressing the board was required to sign up to do so. The comment period was at the start of the meeting, and two KMBH camera operators taped (or pretended to tape) the entire public portions of the meeting. Since introductory comments of this nature are generally ignored and usually ineffective, I didn't sign up to speak. Three visitors did sign up, however, and each of them was given an opportunity to address the board.

The first speaker said that she is not a Catholic, and she felt obliged to come speak because she is "terribly disappointed" by the predominantly Catholic programming on KMBH, and she is "very upset" by the station's decision not to air the "Hand of God" program. She's also "very upset" that none of the newspaper reporter's questions were addressed -- and she's interested in hearing the real answers to the specific questions.

The second speaker was a local attorney, and she also made a point of disclosing that she is not a Catholic. She said she finds it "disturbing" that the station has been proselytizing the Catholic religion, especially since there are many more points of view than just the Catholic point of view. The station is supposed to be a public station, not just a Catholic station, so there should be more attention paid to the programs to present other points of view from other religions and other perspectives. To her, what happened with the "Hand of God" was the last straw, and she felt motivated to come speak to the board. Now, not only are they promoting one religion but censoring programming as well, so she felt a duty to speak out.

The final speaker was a woman who teaches using a number of PBS resources. Her students asked her a question, so she came to get their question answered: Why didn't the station broadcast the "Hand of God"? What was the real reason why the program was not shown? She said she hoped that a clarification would be given because her students in ethics, world religion, and philosophy are asking what the argument really was.

The board chair pointed out that there is no policy of censorship by the board or at the KMBH television station. He clarified that of the programming produced for the diocese by the diocese, the diocese pays to underwrite that programming, just like other corporations pay for other specific programming. He is not a Catholic either, and yet he is chairman of the KMBH board. He has a close relationship with the bishop, who he thinks is a wonderful man who supports the endeavor of educating the children of this community. He promised that as a board, they would carry out what they have been assigned to do and that is to try to create policy for the station. He also said that the visitors present were their guests, but once they began their discussion, it would be simply that -- their meeting and their discussion -- and the visitors would not be permitted to speak.

It was a short while later before the board discussed the "Hand of God" incident.

It came during the general manager's report, which began as a brief discussion of the current events surrounding the station's decision not to air the "Hand of God." The board chair mentioned Briseno's press release citing the scheduling problem and the many news headlines on the issue. He specifically asked if any board member cared to comment on the issue, but none did. One board member replied that he had no comment to make. Then the board chair said that a suggestion had been made that the station air the show, and he asked Briseno what their normal procedure is for airing a preempted program. They don't normally re-air a preempted program immediately. Briseno said that there was a series of inaccuracies from both sides [and he clarified that the "sides" were (1) the KMBH staff and (2) what was reported]. He reiterated what he said in the press release that it was a scheduling problem, and he did not have anything further to add. Fr. Bob asked if it was true that they sometimes preempt PBS programs to do local programming. Briseno seemed to avoid the question by saying that when there is an interest about specific issues, including religious topics, the station is fully in compliance with the rules they are given. He then launched a discussion about digital programming and what the station plans for the near future (which generated a lot of board discussion about the wonders that await us in digital and HiDef television). Having dodged the issue, the board chair moved to the next agenda item.

Soon afterward, the board convened in executive session for about an hour and a half. The only visitors who elected to wait were myself and the VMS reporter, Edwina Garza. When the board resumed the public part of the meeting, they revisited the "Hand of God" issue by trying to determine whether they could air the show anytime soon. They generally agreed that it would be impossible to do so before sometime in March without preempting another show, which seemed counterproductive. Briseno was asked to fit the show into the station's program schedule in March, or at least to report on his efforts to do so by the next board meeting (the date of which is currently undetermined due to various scheduling conflicts among board members). This concluded the meeting.

Other than a cursory reference to Briseno's scheduling-conflict explanation and a summary denial of any censorship, the board did not respond to the public comments concerning the "Hand of God" incident. Instead, the board made only a weak attempt to rectify the situation by asking Briseno to schedule the program in March if possible.