Police Reform Measure
I am a fervent supporter of Amendment F. It would be most unfortunate if it failed to pass Tuesday. Long needed accountability will have been dealt a severe blow.
I also believe, from your paper’s account of it (May 20), that the ad opposing the proposition prepared on behalf of the Police Protective League, which Channel 2 and Channel 7 refused to run and which Channel 5 pulled, is false and insensitive and may even be inflammatory. To imply in a 30-second ad that Amendment F will make the police unable to respond to the community’s needs is despicable. It is Willie Horton all over again.
But the stations were wrong in not running the paid-for ad. It is the height of arrogance for them to have taken upon themselves the prerogative of decreeing what political propaganda the public may or may not see. It is scary when one contemplates the portent. A free press is of the very essence of our ability to govern ourselves as the theory of our democracy teaches. But it is a two-way street. If the press cuts off and stifles what citizens want legally to say, it is abdicating its very function and substantially interfering with the right of the people to engage in participatory democracy.
Were it any other business (and commercial television is a business) the stations would be subject to California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which prohibits business establishments from arbitrarily denying their services to qualified customers. I am aware that the press at large considers itself outside the contours of that act, claiming exemption by reason of the First Amendment. I am also aware, although there surely is room for argument the other way, that the press’ position is a strong one that does not excuse the stations’ conduct, however. Far better that intolerable advertisements be carried than for the stations to pontificate and deny the public the opportunity to see and judge for themselves.
FRED OKRAND, Sherman Oaks