In the space of an hour, three different press releases pinged my inbox today, in full town-crier mode about a historic meeting between Mormon church-owned KSL TV and members of the local LGBT community. Must be big news, right? ---
Representatives from Equality Utah and Utah Pride Center wanted to talk to KSL bigwigs about the station's decision to pull gay-themed The New Normal from its NBC programming. The move had already sparked some bad PR for the station, not only locally but nationally.
You'd imagine that maybe -- just maybe -- KSL had seen the error of its paternalistic ways, that it realized protecting viewers from "objectionable content" only leads to upset, secret coping mechanisms and rebellion. And you would think that KSL would see fit to add the program back in.
But you would be wrong.
No, all the hoopla seems to be over the apparent consciousness-raising of KSL representatives. The press release contained a statement purportedly from KSL that read: "We care about and value all members of our community,
including LGBT people and their families, and are grateful when there can be the type of cordial and respectful dialogue we have had today.”
In an e-mail, Equality Utah's Brandie Balkin said that she, Valerie Larabee with the Utah Pride Center and three LGBT families met with Jeff Simpson, the CEO of Bonneville International (the parent company of KSL) and others "to talk about the importance of visibility and valuation of LGBT families. Through the work of GLAAD nationally and community members locally, the stage was set. We requested a face-to-face meeting with decision makers, and today, we got it."
Balkin goes on to explain the importance of today's joint statements:
"In an historic moment, KSL released a tandem statement with us including a quote acknowledging the value of LGBT families!!! For the first time in KSL history, we will be spoken about as LGBT families, not non-traditional families, not alternative families – but LGBT families."
So, that's it?
Look ... it's great that everyone had a nice talk today. But let's get real. By nixing the program, KSL shows its lack of connection, not only with the rest of the country but within Utah, within its own community of LDS members. It's condescending for KSL TV to make choices for viewers. We know how to handle a remote. Isn't that what free agency is all about, being able to change the channel?
LGBT advocates don't feel it's necessary to insist KSL air the program because the local CW affiliate, CW30, will air it instead, just as it does Saturday Night Live, another NBC program KSL wouldn't darken its airwaves with. (You can also watch the pilot of The New Normal here)
We understand our local gay leaders' plight. It isn't easy making progress in Utah. It's an inch-by-inch proposition. But why accept bread crumbs doled out from the people in charge? KSL telling them it values LGBT families, while not adding the program back in to its schedule, is just empty lip service.
Let's see some evidence of that love, KSL.