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Commission sinks right-to-air regulation for public access

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Commission sinks right-to-air regulation for public access03/21/95 NEW YORK--The state Cable Television Commission voted in early March to drop a…

Commission sinks right-to-air regulation for public access

03/21/95

NEW YORK–The state Cable Television Commission voted in early March to drop a regulation which had given every New York resident the right to air programs on all the state’s public access channels, provided they are not obscene, libelous or slanderous.

The vote against the regulation was the end result of a controversy surrounding a neo-Nazi series titled “Another Voice of Freedom,” which claims the World War II genocide of 6 million Jews never happened. The programs were created by Canadian publisher Ernst Zundel and submitted by New York resident Jack Wikoff.

Several central New York channels refused to air the program, which led to a complaint by Wikoff. The commission later ruled that local stations only have to provide access to people who live in their viewing area.

During the meeting, Edward Kearse, the head of the commission’s staff, attacked the rule as a restriction on free speech, according to Associated Press. “This comes up because one quack walks around who wants to say Nazi things that nobody believes anyway, and all of a sudden this commission wants to suppress the speech of everybody in the state.”

A commission employee said in mid-March that Kearse has since left the commission and now works in private practice.

Proponents of the new rule argue public access channels are meant to provide a voice for the people who watch them, not for everyone in the state.

One of the stations that pulled the show, Finger Lakes Television, still must air the program under the new rules because Wikoff lives in its viewing area. If Finger Lakes does not show the program, Wikoff could go to court or ask the state to intervene.

Wikoff also announced after the meeting that he will recruit supporters across the state to submit the program to other channels.