Alabama network’s attorney sees ‘systemic risk’ if political appointees choose programs

"I believe there is a systemic risk to AETC [Alabama Educational Television Commission] and its public broadcasting mission if specific programming decisions come to be made by the Commissioners," wrote Todd Gray, Washington-based communication attorney for the Alabama state network, in May.

The attorney from the firm of Dow Lohnes, writing to Allan Pizzato, then executive director of the state network. Gray was following up on on earlier conversations about APT's program decision-making process.

Here's the memo. Current obtained the correspondence from a source in Alabama.

Under the Communications Act, "AETC, as the governing board of an FCC licensee, is obliged to exercise control over the station's programming," Gray writes. "At the same time, the State of Alabama and its officials are prohibited from interfering with the free speech rights of any person or institution of the press."

Gray concludes that a state "can establish and provide funding to support a speech activity such as public broadcasting, but if the activity is to pass First Amendment muster, editorial control must be delegated to persons who function outside of the political process. In the case of AETC, this should be the Executive Director and his or her professional programmers."

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