PBS program on church sex scandal fails to air in Valley January 19,2007 Valley Morning Star
HARLINGEN — The "Hand of God" reached most of the United States on Tuesday night, but not the Rio Grande Valley.
Thisweek’s installment of the public-affairs documentary series Frontline —an episode called "Hand of God" — dealt with the child molestationscandal that rocked the Archdiocese of Boston. But the program,distributed by the Public Broadcasting Service, did not air locally.
KMBH-TV,the local PBS affiliate that is owned by the Roman Catholic Diocese ofBrownsville, instead aired a repeat of the previous week’s Frontline,which was about the Taliban of Afghanistan, according to one viewer.
Anotherviewer, Gerald Brazier, a member of the church reform group Call toAction RGV, said people who called KMBH about the missing episode onTuesday were told that the station’s general manager, Monsignor PedroBriseño, wanted to watch "Hand of God" before it aired locally to seeif it was appropriate for local viewers.
AKMBH staff member who refused to give her name said Briseño was on apreviously scheduled annual religious retreat Thursday and was notavailable for comment.
Viewerswho called KMBH on Thursday were told "Hand of God" did not air becausePBS did not provide it to the station on time for the regular Frontlinetime slot Tuesday night.
BrownsvilleDiocese spokeswoman Brenda Nettles Riojas said Thursday she could notcontact Briseño, but media questions about the "Hand of God"documentary could be sent to him by e-mail and he would respond today.
CarrieJohnson, senior director of Primetime Publicity for PBS Media Relationsin Washington, D.C., said the "Hand of God" episode was fed to PBSstations in the standard manner. The first feed on Jan. 11 was forlocal programmers to review the episode. A second feed was done at 8p.m. Tuesday, the scheduled broadcast time for Frontline.
PhilZimmerman, a promotions assistant for Frontline, said the program’sinitial research showed that only one other PBS station out of hundredsin the system nationwide did not air "Hand of God," and that "was dueto a scheduling conflict," he said.
Most Frontline episodes are 60 minutes long; "Hand of God" is 90 minutes in length.
Thelocal station’s Web site, www.kmbh.org, shows a 90-minute block on theJan. 16 schedule where Frontline was scheduled to air.
"To our knowledge, (KMBH) is the only station that did not broadcast it due to content," Zimmerman said.
Thereare more than 340 stations in the PBS system, according to Johnson, thePBS spokeswoman. She said only one other PBS station, KBYU in Provo,Utah, is owned by a religious organization, Brigham Young University,which is in turn owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-daySaints.
Johnson said each station decides whether to air any episode of any PBS program.
Church reform activists who had wanted to view the missing episode were left hanging.
Brazier said part of the reform Call to Action seeks in the Catholic Church is financial accountability.
"We want to know where the money goes that we contribute to the church," said Guy Hallman, another Call to Action RGV member.
Call to Action RGV also wants to know how much of the diocese’s money has been paid to victims of sexual abuse by local clergy.
Sexual abuse by the clergy in all faiths has been a big topic in this country lately, Hallman said.
"We know there has been some abuse by clergy in this diocese," Hallman said.
Hallman blamed the head of the Diocese of Brownsville, Bishop Raymundo Peña, for the show not airing.
"Ican see where this all fits together," Hallman said. "The bishopdoesn’t want people to be reminded that we may have problems right herein our own diocese that haven’t been brought to light.
"The bishop needs to be reminded that we’re conscious of that and we’re not going to let him just sweep it under the rug.
"We need to face these problems."
Peña, also at the retreat Thursday, could not be reached for comment.
"Frontline’s" episode "Hand of God" is available for viewing online at: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/handofgod.
for a listing of alternate locations.