The change in airing time for a Derry Cable Channel 23 program was a matter of taste and protecting younger viewers, the Cable Coordinator said last week.
Cable Coordinator Chris Martin said he had no intention of suppressing free speech when he moved “Up Close and Personal,” the community affairs program hosted by former Town Councilors Janet Fairbanks and Kevin Coyle, from its 7 p.m. slot May 16 and 19. Rather, Martin said, he was shielding younger viewers from what might be considered offensive language, while making the content available at a later time for their parents and other adults.
Resident Maureen Rose spoke in the public comment portion of the May 20 Town Council meeting regarding the switch. “This past Friday (May 16), they showed it at 10 p.m. instead of 7. They did the same thing Monday. I turned on the TV at 7 p.m. and there was a show about ticks.”
Rose called switching the time slot a matter of “bullying” and “restraint of free speech.”
“My dad fought in World War II for freedom of speech,” she told the Council.
“This needs to be researched,” Rose told the Council. “If a cable employee is being controlled by politics, they should be terminated.”
Council chair Mark Osborne reassured Rose that an inquiry would be conducted. “As far as I know, no one on the Council directed them to change the time slot,” he said.
Osborne added, “Freedom of speech will not be compromised in this town. That’s why I fought to have a meaningful public forum in our meetings.”
But Martin said the show wasn’t edited for content. He did catch some “questionable language” in the taping. Instead of pulling the show, he chose to air it at a later time for an adult audience. “We decided to take a conservative approach,” he said. “That’s all it was.”
Martin noted that children would be flipping channels at 7 p.m. and might catch a portion or all of the show.
Martin said he was planning to have a conversation with Fairbanks and Coyle before they taped their next show.
In a phone interview Thursday, Coyle admitted that some salty language was used in the taping. But the words they used were “everyday words,” he added, and “everyone has a slip of the tongue.” There was also a reference to “hookers and whores,” referencing a quote from a show on Channel 17, 23’s sister station.
“Should we have said it? Probably not. But things slip out,” he said.
Though Martin told Fairbanks that the show was moved because of the language, Coyle said he thought it might have been moved because of criticism by Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores. “I’m surprised we expressed opinions critical of a Town Councilor and then the time slot was changed,” he said.
Coyle can’t remember if he was given specific guidelines on what constitutes good taste for Channels 17 and 23. “I do remember signing a document,” he said.
And generally, he said, he and Fairbanks “know enough not to swear.”
Acting Town Administrator Larry Budreau wrote in an e-mail that as station administrator, Martin has the responsibility for enforcing both the local policies and procedures, www.derry.nh.us/Pages/DerryNH_Cable/Policies_2010.pdf and the FCC Broadcast Guidelines, http://www.fcc.gov/guides/obscenity-indecency-and-profanity.