The company behind NPR’s Science Friday show is suing a Colorado preacher and radio host for trademark infringement and cybersquatting with his radio show that debunks evolution, Real Science Friday. The lawsuit was filed in the Supreme Court of New York by Manhattan-based Sciencefriday Inc., the company behind the weekly program heard on more than 300 NPR stations. The complaint names Real Science Friday co-hosts Robert A. Enyart and Fred Williams, as well as the company Bob Enyart Inc.
News of the lawsuit was first reported in the New York Post. Real Science Friday promotes creationism and focuses on science that shows “evidence for the creator God including from biology, geology, astronomy, and physics.” The lawsuit alleges that the show’s companion website, www.realsciencefriday.com, violates the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act by attempting to misdirect web users who are looking for the companion website to NPR’s Science Friday show to Enyart’s main website www.kgov.com. Sciencefriday Inc., is asking for a permanent injunction, at least $100,000 in punitive damages and transfer of ownership of the www.realsciencefriday.com website domain.
It’s not clear what objectives the political appointees of the Alabama Educational Television Commission had in mind when they came out of an executive session on June 12 and voted 5–2 to fire the state-operated public TV network’s top managers. Allan Pizzato, executive director of Alabama Public Television for 12 years, and his deputy, Pauline Howland, were ordered to clean out their desks and immediately vacate the station’s Birmingham headquarters. The dismissals triggered a series of unintended consequences that included an exodus of nine lay leaders from APT’s fundraising organizations, as well as Howland’s reinstatement on a temporary basis two days later. After the dismissals, the commissioners realized that they needed her knowledge and expertise to complete work on APT’s 2013 budget. The fissure also exposed an internal struggle over the commission’s push to schedule programs from the religious right for APT broadcast, and a revision of the network’s mission statement.
The FCC has delayed decisions on two transactions involving sales of public TV stations to Daystar Television Network to examine whether the religious broadcaster meets its criteria for localism and educational programming by noncommercial broadcasters. The scrutiny scuttled a deal involving WMFE in Orlando, pending for nearly a year, and held up a decision on KWBU in Waco, Texas. Daystar, a Texas-based religious network, has been in the market for public TV stations since at least 2003, when it paid $20 million for KERA’s second TV channel in Dallas. It most recently bid on KCSM in San Mateo, Calif. The WMFE sale fell apart after the FCC sent queries to the local entities that had been set up to operate the Orlando and Waco stations.
Public broadcasters are ramping up efforts to secure support of their position in the Senate after the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved legislation that could force the FCC to permit religious broadcasters to use reserved noncommercial educational channels without determining whether they carry educational programs or not. The Noncommercial Broadcasting Freedom of Expression Act, H.R. 4201, passed the House 264-159 on June 20, with six Republicans and 153 Democrats opposed. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Charles W. “Chip” Pickering (R-Miss.) but largely rewritten by House telecom subcommittee Chair Billy Tauzin (R-La.), gives nonprofit organizations the right to hold noncommercial educational (NCE) radio or television licenses if the station broadcasts material the organization itself deems to serve an “educational, instructional, cultural or religious purpose.” The bill notes that religious programming “contributes to serving the educational and cultural needs of the public,” and dictates that the FCC treat it the same way it treats educational programming. Before the legislation’s passage, the House rejected an alternative offered by Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) that would have mandated the reserved channels be primarily educational.
In 2000, members of Congress introduced four bills to head off FCC restrictions on religious broadcasters using reserved TV channels. The issue arose when a religious broadcaster had agreed to a channel swap with Pittsburgh pubTV channel WQEX and the commission considered requiring it to air some nonsecular “educational” content. See Current stories about the proposed Pittsburgh channel swap and the furor over restrictions on religious broadcasters. House bill H.R. 4201 (below) | Earlier House bill H.R. 3525 | Senate bill S. 2010 | Senate bill S. 2215
Noncommercial Broadcasting Freedom of Expression Act of 2000, H.R. 4201
Introduced April 6, 2000, by Rep. Charles “Chip” Pickering (R-Miss.) , H.R. 4201 addresses concerns that the FCC will attempt to regulate religious broadcasting on reserved educational channels. Mr. PICKERING (for himself, Mr. OXLEY, Mr. TAUZIN, Mr. LARGENT, and Mr. STEARNS) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Commerce
A BILLTo amend the Communications Act of 1934 to clarify the service obligations of noncommercial educational broadcast stations.
On Dec. 15, 1999, the FCC approved a swap/sale deal that would have enabled Pittsburgh public TV station WQED to sell its second channel, WQEX, to raise capital and pay longstanding debts. (The deal fell through Jan. 18, 2000, when Cornerstone TeleVision backed out.)
See also separate statements by the commissioners. WQED developed the complex plan after the commission in 1996 declined to drop the noncommercial reservation on WQEX.