Access Racism Roils Maryland County


A white supremacist videotape airing on the Anne Arundel County, Md., public-access cable channel has created quite a stir, including stories in local newscasts and The Washington Post.

Pointing out that it has no editorial control, County Executive Janet Owens Friday was urging viewers to "ignore and denounce" the tape.

The video was made by racist group The National Alliance.

By law, cable systems and local governments are not allowed to control the channels' programming--with a few caveats--although Kent County, Mich., prosecutors have succeeded in pursuing "indecent" programming on its cable public-access channel via an indecent-exposure law.

A trial court and circuit court have upheld that maneuver, finding that the cable-access channel was a "public place" and that exposure was conduct, not speech, and thus not protected by the First Amendment.
The above referenced caveats are that the county can pull the plug for fraud, mishandling of studio equipment, shows tied to a lottery or other contest, or broadcasting under the influence of drugs or alcohol.