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Medford council dismayed about graphic cable show

Posted by Marcia Dick  April 15, 2010 04:18 PM

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A television program aired on Medford Community Cablevision’s TV3 Medford last Thursday evening has stirred up quite a  controversy.

The show, which aired April 8, was called “Dirty Talk Live: Sex Advice, Dirty Talk and Naughty Stories.”
City Council President Robert Maiocco said he got home from work just after 8 p.m. that night, and began getting calls from Medford residents soon afterward.

“Right after I got home the phone started ringing off the hook, with people telling me to turn on TV3,” he said.

Maiocco described the program as “pornographic,” and said that on the screen there was a still image of two “scantily clad” women kissing.  In the corner of the screen, “they had a picture of a squirrel standing erect with a part of the male anatomy sticking out,” Maiocco said.

According to Maiocco, audio of two women discussing sexual matters played over the image on the screen.

“They were taking questions from their callers,” Maiocco said. “They purported to be live. It was hardcore pornographic discussions.”

The program began at 8 p.m. and ran until 9 p.m., according to Dan Sarno,  TV3’s director of programming.

Maiocco was so upset by the programming that he called for a resolution to discuss the matter at the next City Council meeting. The discussion of the show at Tuesday’s meeting began late because of a debate over something else and ended past 11 p.m.
In addition to city councilors, staff members of TV3 Medford were present for the meeting, including Sarno and TV3 President Frank Pilleri.
“Their claim, the board of directors and the people who came to the meeting, they claim they have First Amendment rights … but this isn’t about censorship, it was a judgment call,” Maiocco said.

Sarno said the issue was fundamentally about the First Amendment, which protects freedom of speech, expression, and press.

“Because local TV is founded on the First Amendment, and I take this very seriously,” he said.  “Honestly just because a program is unpopular in Medford, it’s not grounds for censorship.”

Councilor Michael Marks also got plenty of heat about the show.

“I received the same e-mails and phone calls as my fellow councilors, and talking to the residents of the community, many were upset. Not about the content of the show, but the time the show was aired,” Marks said.  “I shared their concern and felt that a later hour would be fitting.”

Councilor Robert Penta said he was shocked by the program and believed it was “inappropriate.”

“This is the inappropriateness that comes from content like that without being reviewed.  I think it was a real slap in the face to every person who might watch community television,” Penta said.

According to Sarno, station managers are not allowed to review programming because it would be censorship.  Sarno said that programs are received on a first come, first serve basis, meaning that studio time, equipment, and air time are all given out as they are available, not according to content.

“I fully understand everyone’s concern. I’m not hiding behind the First Amendment like Maiocco had said,” Sarno stated.

Sarno also said that TV3, like all public access stations, “has no oversight by the FCC.  We’re as far away from broadcast television as possible.”

Maiocco said he felt the issue had not been resolved by the end of the meeting and that he would like to see it brought to Mayor Michael McGlynn’s attention next.

“I want to see the mayor take action. He has the control. He’s the authority on the Cablevision Act.”

Yet although the mayor is responsible for Medford Cablevision’s contract, which includes TV3 Medford, Marks said he didn’t think going to the mayor was necessary.

“I don’t think going to the mayor would be the appropriate thing to do. I think it’s a conversation between the board of directors of TV3, and a discussion of the scheduling time of programs,” Marks said.  “After that meeting I was comfortable that that’s what was going to happen.”

Sarno said he did not believe the mayor should get involved.

“I think it would be an awful decision if the mayor did get involved because then he’s only confirming solidarity with Maiocco and Penta, these two city councilors who have a grudge against TV3.  The public perception will be the mayor is in agreement with two councilors who are infringing on rights.”

Although it wasn’t clear at the meeting Tuesday night whether or not another episode of
“Dirty Talk Live: Sex Advice, Dirty Talk and Naughty Stories” would air, Sarno confirmed that the member who produced the first show will broadcast a second episode, though this time at a later hour.

“I’ve been told by the producers that they’ll air [the show] the next time it’s available at a later hour,” Sarno said.  “The only thing I do fear is if this kind of decision is being made based on fear of future scrutiny.”

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