by Geoff Kelly - posted 9:31 am, March 21, 2008
1. In late November Lou Ricciuti and I appeared on Christy’s program to talk about Niagara County’s legacy of environmental problems, including toxic chemical and radioactive waste. Christy invited us to talk about these issues after he’d asked the Niagara County Manager Greg Lewis to come on the program to do the same. Lewis at first had agreed, but reneged when Christy made it clear he wanted to talk about hazardous waste and not just tax incentive programs for brownfields. (At which point Lewis sent an email to Christy saying he’d “walked off a cliff” this time and that Lewis would no longer appear on Legislative Journal for any reason.) So Christy turned to us.
2. The week after our appearance, the board president of LCTV and Christy’s producer took Christy out for pizza and told him that some members of the board wanted to edit or cancel his show. They suggested he ought to tone it down a bit, and even produced a document with some guidelines, which they asked to withdraw when Christy suggested that such guidelines might tread toward censorship. The board president told Christy that she didn’t know how much longer she could protect him from politically connected board members who didn’t like him asking questions like “What’s in our soil?”
3. Subsequently, Legislative Journal was suspended for four weeks, through the end of December and the beginning of January—the first such hiatus in Christy’s 10 years on the program.
4. When the show resumed, LCTV’s board attorney hastily called a meeting, then came to Christy with a newly acquired opinion from the state’s public service commission that said the board may choose to exercise editorial control over the government channel. The opinion was delivered in response to a letter from LCTV’s board, which mentioned that “several elected officials” wanted Christy’s show canceled. (LCTV’s board continues to pretend that it canceled Legislative Journal because of “anonymous complaints.” Kudos to Jim Heaney at the Buffalo News for getting a copy of that letter.) The commission has said subsequently that it was not ordering the station to exercise editorial control, and that its current actions might violate the station’s bylaws, which prohibit censorship.
This led to the imposition of restrictions on the show and eventually to its outright cancellation last week. Here’s Christy talking to AV about the issue in our office yesterday. We’ll post more of this interview on Monday.