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Legality of closed PBS meetings challenged

The Coalition vs. PBS Censorship has protested a series of upcoming PBS meetings that are being closed to the public.

In a two-page letter sent to Robert G. Ottenhoff, PBS exec VP/chief operating officer, coalition rep Joanne Doroshow challenged the legal ground for PBS to close the meetings and urged that they be opened.

The national program policy committee meets Thursday. Doroshow has been invited to attend one meeting but excluded with the press from the other three.

PBS’ Rob Deigh said, “The purpose of the meetings are to allow participants to discuss information of a proprietary financial nature, in much the same way as the executive sessions of board meetings are held in closed session.”

Coalition representatives say they believe the closed meetings could be violating PBS’ non-profit tax status, though there is no proof of such violations.

In her letter, Doroshow pointed out that “Congress determined that PBS meetings must be open, with very limited exceptions. ‘Efficacy of process’ or ‘making the meeting atmosphere more comfortable for the participants to speak’ are not legitimate grounds for shutting the public and the press out. The public right to know supersedes these kinds of considerations.”

Doroshow said she would attend the one meeting to which she was invited to see if the talk “falls outside the very narrow legal excuses for closing (the) meeting.”

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