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Opinion Column
For the week of September 20 through 26, 2000

Going private may not save Idaho public TV from right-wing attacks

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

No less an authority than Idaho Republican party chairman Trent Clark describes the cranky claque of critics in the state Legislature who constantly carp about Idaho Public Television programming.

Clark calls the lawmakers "nuts," and admits they’re Republicans, but whom he disavows as representative of GOP attitudes about IPTV.

Now the beleaguered IPTV is considering "privatizing" itself to escape mindless attacks by political right-wingers trying to impose suffocating moral and religious standards.

However, IPTV managers, who’ve asked the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for $80,000 to study converting the station’s status, are nave if they believe Republicans that Clark described as "nuts" would abandon dogged attempts to cleanse TV.

Even if IPTV unhooks its umbilical from the state treasury, whence it receives 28 percent of its annual funding ($1.5 million), and decides to seek underwriting in the private sector, the GOP "nuts" have other avenues to press their campaign against IPTV.

First, they could mount a relentless filibuster before the Federal Communications Commission challenging IPTV’s license by questioning fitness of IPTV officers and directors and attacking its programming—in short, making life miserable with exhausting, expensive and pointless legal warfare.

Second, they could wage war against commercial underwriters and sponsors of the "privatized" station, attempting to humiliate corporations into abandoning support of programming that the "nuts" believe doesn’t meet their test of moral and religious purity.

Third, just as the Southern Baptist Convention is attempting to do to Disney because of its civil treatment of gay Americans, IPTV stalkers could appeal to Idaho churches to boycott a privatized IPTV and its commercial supporters.

Fourth, the GOP critics could make IPTV a political issue by forcing candidates for elective state, county and city offices to take a stand on whether they support programming that includes topics such as homosexuality and other subjects that Republican "nuts" find unpleasant.

"Privatizing" IPTV might well relieve the station of the annual hardship of budget threats by Republican opponents in the Legislature.

But the obvious better, long-range solution for ridding IPTV and other Idaho public institutions of attempts to turn back the clock is to replace them with men and women who understand that enlightenment and learning is the objective in the 21st century, not darkness and ignorance.


How cruel life is for Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler.

It’s not just the jury’s $6.3 million civil judgment that may strip Butler of his Coeur d’Alene holdings.

Now Butler’s boasts that white Gentiles are superior to Jews and blacks is in shambles.

A Jew is the Democratic vice presidential candidate. An African-American woman is the Reform Party’s veep choice. Multi-ethnic Tiger Woods has a new $100 million endorsement contract. Tennis is now dominated by the African-American Williams sisters.

Some of America’s best Olympians are black athletes. African Americans are premiere stars of basketball and football. And America’s onetime symbol of militant white supremacy, Selma, Ala., has just elected a black mayor.

How will Butler explain this to his racist disciples?

Pat Murphy is the retired publisher of the Arizona Republic and a former radio commentator.


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