Calif. university bars student from airing beheading video on school-sponsored TV

CALIFORNIA — Administrators at aUniversity of California at San Diego television station have suspended studentprogramming until next fall after a student was prohibited from showing footageof the beheading of an American civilian in Iraq during his political talkshow.Student talk show host Daniel Watts already showed the video ofNicholas Berg’s murder once on Warren College Television without the knowledgeof administrators. When he attempted to show the video again two weeks later onthe closed-circuit station, administrators told him no, and shut down thestation for a day to examine its policies. Claire Palmer, resident deanat Warren College, said that although the station is student-run, it isfinancially supported by the school and serves only as an educationaloutlet.”We want to make sure that before we turn on the switch, peopleare aware of our policies and procedures,” Palmer said.Although WCTV’spolicy states that it does not telecast obscene or indecent material that ispatently offensive under community standards, Palmer would not interpret why thefootage was deemed obscene.”Students never really have had fullcontrol,” said Chrystal Basil, director of operations for WCTV. “It was astation created by the college to update students on events.”Basil saidWatts was not allowed to show the footage on the public university’s stationagain because it did not meet the standards of content allowed on thechannel.Palmer said Watts was able to show the video on Student RunTelevision, the university’s student-run station, because it is student-financedand controlled by students. She noted that WCTV was created to serve as aneducational outlet for the university. Both stations are broadcast to theuniversity community and not available to the general public.”The [WCTV]station is up and operating,” Palmer said. “The only thing we are not showing,at this point, are student-run shows or live shows.”According to TheGuardian, a student newspaper at the university, Watts showed the video onStudent Run Television on May 27 after he was not allowed to show it on WCTV,where his politically centered talk show usually is seen.Nick Aguilar,director of student policies and judicial affairs for the university, said thataccording to station policies, station managers have final say over what isbroadcast.”As a result of this incident, I’m reviewing the policy … tomake it explicitly clear that WCTV is an educational resource and not intendedto be a public forum so there is no confusion about its purpose and its nature,”he said. “The policies that were drafted don’t make that explicitly clear,although that was the intent.”Aguilar said Watts was able to broadcastthe footage on SRTV the same day he was not allowed to do so onWCTV.”SRTV was clearly intended to be treated like other student mediathat are responsible and which the university exercises no control over thecontent,” he said. “SRTV was intended to be a limited public forum not intendedto be open to the general public.”He said the university has not, anddoes not, plan on limiting what can be shown on SRTV, as long as it islegal.Aguilar said student programming on WCTV should resume at thebeginning of the fall semester.”The timing enables us to look at thepolicies and procedures at WCTV to make it clear that it is not intended to be apublic forum,” he said.The Student Press Law Center could not reachWatts for comment.