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FCC leads the way on persecution of religious broadcasters

FCC leads the way on persecution of religious broadcasters

By BROOKS BOLIEK |

If a church broadcasts the word of God on TV without closed captions, it risks incurring the wrath of the FCC.

Some 300 small- to medium-sized churches can expect letters from the commission within the next few days explaining why their closed captioning exemptions were lifted for TV shows like “Power in the Word” and “Producing Kingdom Citizens.”

The FCC has been mailing the letters for the past few days to churches from Maine to California, explaining that the hundreds of exemptions are now rescinded and giving the programmers 90 days to reapply.

The churches were granted FCC exemptions from the closed captioning requirement under a 2006 commission decision known as the “Anglers Order” for the Anglers for Christ Ministries program that had argued for exemption from the rules.

While the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau used the Anglers Order as the model to grant at least 298 other exemptions, the full commission overturned that decision Oct. 20 after objections were raised from a coalition of organizations for the deaf and hard of hearing.

The churches may still be eligible to win an exemption from the rules if they can prove they can’t afford closed captioning, but they now have to make their case individually.

“This was a process that went awry,”
said Craig Parshall, senior vice president of the National Religious Broadcasters, an international association of Christian communicators. “Now, we are going back to Square One.”

Advocacy groups for the deaf contend that the bureau erred when it granted the exemptions en masse because that created a virtual blanket exemption for nonprofit organizations. Under the closed captioning law, programmers can win an exemption if they can prove that the cost of the captioning will cause an undue economic hardship.

The groups wrote to the FCC asking commissioners to overrule the bureau order arguing that the order “improperly and unilaterally established a new class of exempt programming.”

While the commission’s decision has an immediate impact on churches across the country, it isn’t directed at religious organizations in particular, Parshall said. Small- and medium-sized churches just happened to apply for exemptions under the closed captioning law’s exception for TV shows where paying for captioning is an undue economic burden, Parshall explained.

Advocates for the deaf said they were pleased the commission was taking action on the issue, and hoped that it would make more programming accessible to the deaf and hearing impaired.

“Now, we look forward to viewing more TV shows that were not captioned before,” said Jim House, spokesman for Telecommunications for the Deaf Inc. “It is our hope that those producers affected by the decision would see the positive benefits of making their shows accessible to more and more viewers and find that it is the right thing to do.”

Religious broadcasters want to reach the deaf community, but requiring churches across the country to close caption their TV programs could force the programming off the air, Parshall said.

“We believe our message needs to get out to the deaf and disabled communities,
” Parshall explained. “All we want is a sensible regulatory structure that recognizes the plight of the small Christian broadcaster.

This article first appeared on POLITICO Pro at 3:25 p.m. on October 31, 2011.

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Mayan Secrets to Be Revealed by Mexican Government

Mayan Secrets to Be Revealed by Mexican Government in ‘2012’ Doc

content by The Wrap

By Steve Pond at TheWrap

The Mexican government is releasing state-held secrets about the end of the Mayan calendar to the makers of a documentary, “Revelations of the Mayans 2012 and Beyond,” TheWrap has learned.

The information — protected for 80 years — is expected to reveal Mayan beliefs in future catastrophes and wisdom characterized as “shocking,” producer Raul Julia-Levy, son of actor Raul Julia, told TheWrap.

The end of the Mayan calendar in December 2012 has long given rise to theories and speculation about the end of the world.

The agreement will allow Julia-Levy to film in never-before-seen locations.

“The Mayans used to construct one pyramid over another,
” tourism minister for the Mexican state of Campeche Luis Augusto Garcia Rosado told TheWrap. “In the site at Calakmul (pictured below right), workers for INAH [the National Institute of Anthropology and History] have discovered rooms inside the pyramid that have never been seen or explored before.

“And we’re letting this documentary film there, to see what has been discovered inside the pyramid.”

Julia-Levy (above) said he’d been made aware of the secret Mayan information by former Mexican president Vicente Fox — a friend of his family — and that it took four years of phone calls to finally get the OK from current president Felipe Calderon.

“This is very important for humanity, not just for Mexico,” said Julia-Levy. “This information has been protected for 80 years, and now it’s important for people to understand the series of events that are coming, and the consequences for all of us.”

The English-language documentary will be directed by Juan Carlos Ruflo (whose other films include the 2006 Sundance winner “In the Pit”), and will begin shooting later this year. Elbert said the filmmakers are talking to investors and waiting for the government to give them their first look at the material and the site.

One big condition from the Mexican government was that the film get an initial theatrical release, which is planned for next fall, said Ed Elbert who is co-producing along with Julia-Levy and Sheila M. McCarthy and executive producer Eduardo Vertiz.

It has to be released before the end of the Mayan calendar, which is Dec. 21, 2012,” said Julia-Levy.

That’s the date that the Mayan calendar — which some believe predicts a worldwide cataclysm — comes to the end of a 5,126-year cycle, and resets for another cycle.

Top 10 Reasons The World Will NOT End In 2012!

Julia-Levy has been specifically ordered not to talk about any of the more mystical possibilities that might strain credulity as Mexico prepares to launch the far-reaching (and tourism-inducing) 2012 Mayan World Program.

At one point, Rosado was quoted in a press release talking about contact between the Mayans and extraterrestrials. That statement has been recalled, and Rosado now paints this as a simpler, more archaeological-oriented documentary.

“At the moment, talk of the Mayans is a big thing,”
Rosado said. “We’ve counted over 3 million websites talking about the end of the Mayan calendar, and we have been contacted by a lot of producers who want to come and film on our sites.”

The project is similar in some ways to a novel Julia-Levy was writing, variously entitled “Chronicles of the Mayan Tunnel” and “Secrets of the Mayan Time Machine.” He and co-producer Elbert were also going to make a 3D movie from that novel starring him and Wesley Snipes, he said in the summer of 2010.

Several reports from that time said the novel was being written with the help of “secret information” never before released by the Mexican government. But in their conversations with TheWrap, Julia-Levy and Elbert dismissed that project as a “Harry Potter”-style piece of fiction with no connection to the current documentary.

That film has been set aside, they said, because Snipes is serving a prison sentence for tax evasion. “We put that film on hold,” said Elbert. “Dollar-wise, this documentary might be smaller, but it is based on the release of new and important knowledge from the Mayans.”

Asked if the movie will involve aliens, mystical elements or doomsday scenarios that have fueled the popular imagination, Julia-Levy declined to elaborate.

“I’m not allowed to speak about that,” he said. “Everything is going to come out in time, but I can’t comment on aliens or on 2012.

“I can just say that the Mexican government is preparing to tell humanity and the world things that are critical for us, for the way we live, for the way we’ve been handling the planet.”

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