May 4, 2009

Separating the wheat from the chaff

Our e-mail Inbox was filled with a variety of missives today – and one of them was like an old friend that we really didn’t want to hear from anymore.

Labeled with the subject:
Removing pastors from television,” the e-mail was forwarded by a friend and contained a cover letter and petition that warned “an organization has been granted a federal hearing on the subject by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) inWashington, D.C. Their petition, Number 2493, would ultimately pave the way to stop the reading of the gospel of our Lord and Savior, on the airwaves of American. They got 287,000 signatures to back their stand.”

The trouble is: it’s not true. Some 30 years ago, there was a petition 2493 heard by the FCC, but its purpose was not to remove pastors from the airwaves. Rather, it sought to “disqualify all religiously-affiliated organizations and institutions from eligibility to operate on reserved channels.” Basically, it sought to protect educational broadcasters (public radio stations) from an onslaught of religious broadcasters who were proliferating the educational FM band (88-92 Mhz). In the 1970s, public radio was still not fully developed in many places – including South Dakota.

It necessitated lots of technical and legal expenses in efforts to find other available frequencies. That’s why you’ll find two South Dakota Public Radio stations in western South Dakota at 97.1 (Faith) and 102.5 (Martin) on commercial station frequencies, rather than down in the “reserved” educational band between 88-92 Mhz with most other public radio stations.

In any event, the petition was denied by the FCC. Read more about it at

Nonetheless, largely due to the seemingly endless capacity of the internet to perpetuate myths, this topic seems to continue. Many kind and well-intended folks get caught up in this scam, driven by people who see bogeymen behind too many trees and feel far too comfortable serving as embattled "victims." Their time and energy is often mis-spent. And that’s too bad, when there are so many worthwhile and important local issues that deserve their attention.

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