130527HoweMay 27, 2013

Recent revelations about billionaire David Koch’s influence on the airing of an unflattering PBS documentary bring to mind how UNC-TV showed similar deference to the accusing parents in the Little Rascals case.

Although a roundtable arranged by New York station WNET to follow the Koch-critical “Park Avenue” excluded filmmaker Alex Gibney, that discussion at least offered viewers a range of viewpoints about income inequality.

By contrast, in 1993 UNC-TV director Tom Howe said he agreed with parents that “Innocence Lost: The Verdict” was unbalanced and barred defense attorney Mike Spivey from participating in the discussion afterward. (I requested a copy of the program, but the station said it was unable to find one.)

In 1997, UNC-TV gave prosecutor Nancy Lamb and parent Susan Small time on “North Carolina NOW” to discuss the decision to drop the last charges in Little Rascals. “Both responded with long, rather unfocused answers,” Current magazine observed, “and the interview concluded without a single follow-up question….”