KILLEEN, Texas — The PBS station serving Fort Hood’s congressional district said it has rescheduled the airing of a program about the Iraq war after being criticized for blocking the show when it aired nationally.
Officials at KNCT said they would show the episode of the news program “Now” tonight. The station had blocked the episode, which features interviews with local congressional candidates, when it aired on other PBS stations on Nov. 3.
Mary Beth Harrell, the Democratic challenger in District 31, on Nov. 4 threatened to file a federal complaint if KNCT didn’t air the program and explain why it was pulled.
The war has dominated the race between Harrell and two-term U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock. Supporters of Harrell, who is married to a retired career Army man and has a son serving in Iraq with the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, believe the show wasn’t aired to hurt her chances.
Harrell’s lawyer, Gerry Hebert, said blocking the show was a “censorship decision.”
KNCT said there were no political motivations behind the decision. Station officials have said they were concerned that the show violated federal requirements to give all candidates equal airtime. The show includes only a picture and statement from Libertarian candidate Matt McAdoo.
Jim Anderson, chancellor of Central Texas College, which runs KNCT, said yesterday that the show was pulled because the station was following a policy not to give political candidates exposure 72 hours before an election.
Joel Schwartzberg, a senior producer for the New York-based show, said “Now” contacted KNCT officials on Nov. 1 and Nov. 2 to alert them about the upcoming program.
“I was surprised (the show was pulled) because we had discussions with them,” he said.
Schwartzberg says the program is classified as a documentary, and “according to the Federal Communications Commission, it is exempt from having to present equal time.”
McAdoo, the Libertarian candidate, wasn’t included in more length because “the war is not an essential part of his platform,” Schwartzberg said.
KNCT scheduled the show for 8 p.m. CST tonight. It is likely the only opportunity for voters in Temple, Killeen and Fort Hood to see Harrell and Carter’s stands contrasted in almost a debate-like format. Carter has rejected requests to debate Harrell.
Carter’s campaign has said it never discussed the program with Anderson and has no reason to oppose its broadcast.