PBS ombudsman “senses” that Dyer pledge shows violate PBS “nonsectarian” policy

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Do motivational speaker Wayne Dyer’s pledge programs violate PBS’s Editorial Standards and Policies to provide “nonsectarian” content? “My sense is that they do,” writes PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler. “PBS feels strongly that they do not.”

In a PBS online promo for Dyer’s latest, Wishes Fulfilled, he is identified as a “beloved spiritual teacher.”

Getler writes that in 2009, in connection with a dispute involving five local stations (Current, April 13, 2009), the PBS Board defined sectarian content as “programming that advocates a particular religion or religious point of view.” There is no definition of “nonsectarian” in PBS editorial standards adopted in June 2011, Gelter notes.

When Gelter asked John Wilson, PBS programmer, about the board’s statement in regard to Dyer, Wilson responded: “PBS believes that Dr. Dyer’s programs do not promote one religious viewpoint over others. That is, his programs do not advocate a particular, specific religion or a particular, specific religious point of view. Instead, his programs are motivational in nature and reflect multiple cultural, religious and non-religious philosophical traditions.”

The issue for Getler, he writes, “is that the board statement in 2009 does not say: ‘or a particular, specific religious point of view,’ as Wilson interprets it. It says, again: ‘Sectarian content includes programming that advocates a particular religion or religious point of view.’ I view ‘or’ in that usage to mean alternatively, that programming should not advocate a religious point of view.”