ACLU of Southern California Settles Free Speech Lawsuit Over Cable TV Censorship

May 22, 2007 12:00 am

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LOS ALAMITOS — The Los Alamitos City Council voted unanimously yesterday to settle a lawsuit over its censorship of public-access television programming last year. The city agreed to adopt new policies to protect free speech at Los Alamitos Television Corporation, whose LATV Channel 3 is available to Time Warner customers in Los Alamitos and Rossmoor.

The ACLU of Southern California and the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis LLP filed a free-speech case February 6 on behalf of Alan Katz, whose arts and politics series had an episode ordered off the air.

“With ever-increasing media consolidation, it is harder and harder for individuals to have any access to television and radio. Stations like LATV-3 are a vital outlet for the voices of the public,” said Peter Eliasberg, the ACLU/SC’s Manheim Family Attorney for First Amendment Rights. “This agreement keeps real local television alive in Los Alamitos.”

The new policies are meant to provide fair access to prime time slots and ensure programming is not removed from the air without careful review.

“Producers’ shows will air when requested and not be rearranged to suit the city’s point of view,” said Katz, who produces “OC’s West End,” an arts and politics program that has aired since February 2005.
The censorship that led to the lawsuit occurred after the City Council fired the independent board of directors who manage the Los Alamitos Television Corporation and took control of the nonprofit station. Katz taped an episode of his series in September 2006 with former LATV board members. The show aired twice before the city manager — who admitted she had not seen the episode — ordered it off the air, citing unspecified “complaints” about its content. The program was later returned to the air, then pulled again.

The producer of another series taped interviews with City Council candidates before the November election. The episode was swapped for local football games and other programs just before the Nov. 7 election.

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