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Medford's TV3 defends airing controversial program

Posted by Alix Roy  April 22, 2010 10:04 AM

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A Medford City Council meeting escalated into a shouting match Tuesday night as members of Medford Community Cablevision's TV3 board of directors defended the station's decision to air a controversial program anytime on the channel, claiming that to do otherwise would be censorship.

“We do not censor, we have never censored, and we will never ever censor, said TV3 board president Frank Pilleri.

The program, entitled “Dirty Talk Live: Sex Advice, Dirty Talk and Naughty Stories,” aired on TV3 at 8 p.m. on April 8, prompting several city councillors to question the station's judgement at a meeting on April 13. On Tuesday, Councillor Robert Penta continued to upbraid the board, calling its members “sick” for allowing the program to air at a time when children might be watching.
 
“You are one of the problems letting that show go on,” he said to Pilleri. “Don't try to flim-flam the fact that you put a piece of raunchiness on the station and are trying to call it television.”

Moving the program to a later time, as Penta and other councillors have suggested, would violate the rights of TV3 members and put the station at risk for a lawsuit, Pilleri said.
 
“In the event that other stations do it wrong, we don't care,” he said. “We do not do that, we uphold every member's rights.”
 
A clause mandating that programs deemed “inappropriate for young or sensitive viewers” be broadcast after 10 p.m. was removed from TV3's policy manual several years ago, Pilleri said. The clause can still be found in the 2008 version of the manual posted on the TV3 website, however the document contains a disclaimer that content is subject to change “frequently and without notice.”

Several TV3 members present at Tuesday's meeting said the timing of the program was irrelevant since parents should be monitoring what their children watch on television.

“The government and TV3 are not the nannies for people's kids,” said station member George Zappelli. “Shame on the parents for not knowing what they're watching. I'm so sick of people bringing children into the argument.”

In pointed remarks aimed at Penta, Pilleri suggested offended viewers simply stop watching programs that upset them.

“What's wrong with telling the community that if you don't like what's playing on your community access channel to change the channel?” he said.

“That's the easiest copout in the world,” Penta shot back “Cable access is made for the community.”

Medford resident and former teacher Suzanne Connolly pointed out that many teens may not exercise good judgement in television viewing. She joined the council in questioning the program's suitability for community television and questioned TV3's use of the First Amendment in its argument.
 
“I don't believe out forefathers had dirty talk in mind when they discussion freedom of speech,” she said. “There is a responsibility that goes with any right that we have.”

As the lone TV3 member to show sympathy for the council's position, Doria Alberg said she would encourage the board to use “tact and taste” in its future programming decisions.

“I do believe in freedom of speech. I believe everybody has the right to say what they want to say,” she said calmly. “But I will ask them to use judgment and put something on at a later time so that my grandchildren can watch and not be offended.”

According to Pilleri, Dirty Talk will continue to air on TV3 but the producer has volunteered to move it to the 10:30 p.m. slot.
 
“His decision, not ours. We don't have the ability to mandate anything, he has agreed to do that,” he said.

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