September 8, 2002
Frank Moore's Final Speech to the Berkeley City Council
Council member Betty Olds, who introduced this ordinance, has publicly proclaimed that if she had her way, she would ban these alternatives from our public access channel. She bemoaned the fact that it is illegal to censor or ban community shows on public access channels. This ordinance is an attempt to get around this legal fact. Olds actually has said she would take away B-TV, the channel of the community, if that was the only way she could force the removal of the shows that she doesn’t approve of. So the real targets and victims of this ordinance are not our two shows, but the people of Berkeley, their freedom of expression on their channel.
This ordinance came about when both the staff of B-TV and the board of BCM refused to adopt a censoring scheduling policy, following their mission of promoting free speech and diversity. They knew getting some complaints is always a part of running a free speech channel. All of us producers were acting responsibly, requesting that our shows be aired after 10pm, the standard “safe harbor” for adult content. But the City Council, fueled by very few complaints, decided to ignore B-TV’s staff and producers and the BCM board. It decided to issue rules controlling what could be shown on B-TV when. When politicians do this, it should always set off loud alarm bells.
This ordinance is a dangerous product of this misguided adventure. It purports to protect children from “indecent” programs. It doesn’t do this. Again Olds has admitted that protecting children is just an excuse to get rid of shows that she and people like her find unsettling, etc. This ordinance does not provide cheap hardware to concerned parents that allow them to block any program they deem unfit for their kids. Instead, it does away with the “safe harbor” of the 10pm-6am timeslot for adult programming. In its place there will be an “indecent” timeslot of midnight to 6am. Except for the shows which fall into a very narrow definition of what “indecent” is as defined in this ordinance, all other shows can be shown anytime! As Council members Spring and Maio pointed out as they voted against the ordinance, the two targeted shows are not indecent. In fact B-TV doesn’t have any shows that are indecent as defined in this ordinance.
In reality, this ordinance is not about protecting children at all. It is about chilling free speech. It is about forcing people to do “acceptable” shows. Under this ordinance, a producer is expected to label her show as indecent or not. If she doesn’t label it as indecent and somebody complains, there is a hearing. This hearing, its process, its rules, etc. are not remotely spelled out in the ordinance. If the show is found “indecent” in the hearing, the show is exiled to after midnight. But if the show is found not to be indecent...well, the complainer can do it again next week...until the producer is grounded down into watering down her program. This is the real goal of this ordinance, not protecting kids!
Well, Suzy and I are not chillers. We do not chill. We boil. If this ordinance passes, we will fight lustfully! And we will win. We have to because, as Kriss Worthington keeps pointing out, this would give this and other city councils the power to control what we do and say on OUR public access channels...and freedom of speech dies!
By the way, are we going let them limit our possibilities?
Frank Moore 9/8/02