To the editors:
This is in reference to an error which appeared in your June 12 Reader article, “Gays and Lesbians in Their Own Images.”
One paragraph of the article read:
“Scheduled to air on local cable television earlier this year, Wright’s video ran head-on into political problems at the Chicago Access channel offices. Because of the nudity and sexually explicit narrative in the tape, cable administrators decided they could not risk breaching FCC regulations or perturbing potential funders and audiences. Voices of Life did not air.”
This information is incorrect and, to our knowledge, no one on our staff was contacted for a check of the facts. Chicago Access is being charged with censorship in your article, which is a serious charge and misrepresents the facts.
Users of Chicago Access accept responsibility for program content and agree to comply with federal law concerning unprotected speech. In this case, it was the program submitter’s decision not to cablecast the program on a Chicago Access channel.
Thank you in advance for making this correction.
Chicago Access Corporation
Mitchell Stevens replies:
The history of Patrick Wright’s video, Voices of Life, with Cable Access is in fact more complicated than it seems in my original description of it. The organizers of Feedback, a biweekly program featuring work by independent filmmakers and videographers, selected Voices of Life for part of its schedule and submitted the tape to Cable Access for cablecasting. Cable Access subsequently warned the Feedback team that, given the content of the piece, Voices of Life could spur lawsuits. Since the tape might also be construed as “obscene,” it potentially violated both the Feedback channel-user agreement and Cable Access’s city programming charter. Feedback organizers were also made aware that similar situations in other cities had led to even tighter control of public access programming.
However, Cable Access left the final decision of whether or not to air Voices of Life up to the Feedback programmers, who decided to avoid the sizeable risks the tape represented by not including the piece in its schedule. Still, the whole scenario raises important questions about who controls “public” screens, and about the very real cultural politics in which, even with this correspondence, Ms. Heller and I are engaged.