New PBS chief tries to erase censorship concern

FCC commissioner Ervin Duggan says he has no intention of censoring controversial public TV programs when he becomes prexy of the Public Broadcasting Service Feb. 1.

Conservatives in Congress have long complained that public broadcasting has a liberal bias and is unworthy of increased federal support due to racy programs such as “Tongues Untied,” a show that featured black homosexuals.

No ‘Czar’ designs

“I will not exert any power as a censor or a czar of programming,” Duggan told the Federal Communications Bar Assn. Tuesday, adding he didn’t want to “begin my career at PBS denouncing certain programs. … I’ll take a pass at that.”

Nevertheless, Duggan said he hopes to be a “good publisher” by encouraging development of PBS as an “educational and cultural institution.” Duggan said the future of public TV “does not reside in aping commercial television.”

Duggan hinted that he might press members of Congress to support auctions of the radio spectrum, with a portion of the proceeds to be targeted toward financially strapped pubcasters. “I’d love to see some of that (money) come to public television,” he said.

Most of Duggan’s speech was devoted toward his thesis that public TV indeed has an important role to play on the much-hyped information superhighway.

‘Triple crisis’

Citing a “triple crisis” in the U.S. in education, community unity and the commercial media, which he chided for “rising violence, rising exploitation and declining quality,” Duggan said public TV is the “one institution in American life (that) can make a contribution toward resolving every one of those crises.”

Duggan said he believes his most significant decision in four years as an FCC commish was the vote cast in favor of establishing a “video dialtone.” Video dialtone refers to telephone technology in the form of fiber optic wires tothe home that will allow consumers to dial up video entertainment and other telecommunications services.

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