HST could have taught Idaho lawmakers a thing or two
Commentary by PAT MURPHY
If Idaho Public Television is faithful to the state Legislatures
marching orders, IPTV gradually will strip its schedule of anything resembling challenging
thought for adult viewers, and instead will resort to endless Pollyanna pap geared for the
How else to interpret dictates of lawmakers who retaliated with a
vengeance over IPTVs airing of "Its Elementary," a PBS network
program exploring how teachers and students discuss homosexuality?
Meanspirited lawmakers with an aversion to confronting social issues
sliced IPTVs budget request in half, then added a fiat: IPTVs programs should
avoid controversial topics and instead stress cultural and family enrichment, character
education, promotion of virtues and moral values.
Thats fine for the local pastors Sunday sermon, but hardly
fuel for gray matter that adult IPTV viewers expect.
The most stubborn booster of this veiled censorship was Sen. Hal
Bunderson, a Meridian Republican, whose special peeve about public discussion of
homosexuality ignores reality. Homosexuality is a hot political topic.
The presumed presidential nominee of Bundersons political party,
George W. Bush, made news by agreeing to meet with Log Cabin Republicans, a gay group. In
Congress, debate rages on about gays in the military. Corporations are extending benefits
to same-sex partners.
So why does Sen. Bunderson want to remove IPTV from the real world? Could
it be he believes a TV program would instantly transform viewers into homosexuals?
Mindless politicians of the 1950s behaved the same about
communismdiscussing communism in college political science classes was tantamount to
So IPTVs dilemma is what sort of "controversy" to avoid,
and whose moral values to promote, lest Sen. Bundersons Victorian sensibilities be
offended and he uses the purse again for revenge?
Is controversy swirling around teaching evolution vs. creationism too
spicy for Sen. Bundersons tastes? Should IPTV carry programs examining controversies
surrounding abortion and physician-assisted suicide?
Sen. Bundersons attempt to substitute his judgment for those of pros
reminds me of President Truman.
After Truman boasted in a University of Missouri speech he could do as
good a job editing a newspaper as journalists, my boss at the time, Miami Herald publisher
John Knight, invited HST to "edit" the Herald on his next trip to the Key West
"Little White House."
On April 30, 1960, former president Truman showed up. Knight provided copy
pencils, a stack of stories from the news services and the seat at the news editors
desk. Truman pondered hundreds of stories from which to pick material for the morning
edition. Finally, he looked up in helpless exasperation.
"Hell, this is your job," HST said, nodding toward Knight and
editors standing nearby.
Truman left without editing a word, admitting he should stick to politics.
If thats good advice for an American president, surely its
good enough advice for Sen. Bunderson. Mr. Senator, leave TV to the pros.
Pat Murphy is the retired publisher of the Arizona Republic and a former