Parade only live on cable, Web this year
by Heather Cassell
If you're planning to watch the June 24 San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade live from the comfort of your home, you'll need to have Comcast digital cable or Internet access.
Apparently, concern over the Federal Communications Commission is to blame, and KRON, a local independent station, has decided not to air the live two-hour broadcast as it has in previous years because its license is up for renewal.
Following negotiations, the LGBT Pride Celebration Committee Inc. announced Tuesday, June 12 an agreement with Comcast that will allow a live broadcast of the world-famous parade to be seen on digital cable channel 99. As in previous years, KRON will be broadcasting the parade, but its edited show won't air on channel 4 until 7 p.m. Sunday night. KRON's feed will be used by Comcast for the live cable broadcast.
The change means that the parade will have a broader audience, including an Internet broadcast at Clear Channel's http://www.ShakeRadio.com.
According to Pat Patton, KRON 4 vice president and station manager, the decision not to air the traditional live broadcast was made because the station's license is up for renewal this year, meaning it will be under the scrutiny of the FCC.
The FCC has been harsh when responding to indecency, profanity, and obscenity complaints during the Bush administration, especially since rock star Bono uttered an expletive at the Golden Globe Awards in 2003 and Janet Jackson had her infamous "wardrobe malfunction" during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show.
The tide might be turning as on June 4, the United States 2nd District Court of Appeals in New York ruled that the FCC's recent enforcement decisions with regard to vulgarities uttered on air were "arbitrary and capricious," a "significant departure from positions previously taken by the agency," and the FCC "failed to articulate a reasoned basis for this change in policy" according to the court's decision.
It is uncertain whether the U.S. 3rd District Circuit Court reviewing the Jackson wardrobe malfunction case will swing the same way. A decision is expected this fall, according to the Wall Street Journal.
But that doesn't help KRON's current position in regards to broadcasting the San Francisco Pride Parade.
"We all feel badly that we have to do what we have to do here. It's really not a decision we have chosen," said Patton. "We simply couldn't take the chance."
Patton told the Bay Area Reporter that in spite of the fact that he hasn't seen "a lot that he would edit" from parade footage in previous years, the local television station is "taking all precautions." He said that the station wouldn't edit the parade "to the point of Sex and the City," a reference to the former HBO hit that is heavily edited for syndication broadcast on KRON.
Patton was quick to point out that a media alliance came together, which resulted in streamlining the San Francisco Pride Parade into un-FCC regulated media avenues â€“ cable and the Web â€“ and will inadvertently lead to a broader audience.
"People have already talked about San Francisco Pride as a beacon of hope worldwide," said Pride Executive Director Lindsey Jones. "This is a new way for people around the world to have hope."
According to Jones, an estimated 850 million people around the world will be able to "be at Pride without being at Pride" and tune into the coverage featuring KRON 4 news anchor Catherine Heenan, reporter Henry Tenenbaum, Bay Area Reporter society columnist Donna Sachet, and other community commentators.
The costs to produce and show the San Francisco Pride Parade weren't disclosed, but Jones told the B.A.R. that Pride pitches in $15,000 to help cover production costs as part of a previous multi-year contract that recently concluded. New broadcast and other partnership plans are under way for Pride 2008, but, according to Jones, negotiating a new broadcast contract won't happen until after Pride 2007 is over.
According to Andrew C. Johnson, regional vice president of communications at Comcast, the decision to go digital was a "technical solution" that was "elegant and quick" and "easiest to put into place" to reach their 1.7 million Comcast digital subscribers.
This was an effort, according to Jones, to make the event more accessible, but what about those without cable service or Internet access?
Jones expressed to the B.A.R. that Pride was concerned about people who do not have access to cable or the Internet. But she pointed out that for the first time, the replay of the Pride Parade on KRON 4, which used to be shown on the Sunday after Pride, will happen this year on Pride Sunday. So, people will still be able to watch the parade, just not live.
"That night people can cozy up at home and still watch the parade on Pride Sunday," said Jones. "I hope the community likes that."
Fortunately, according to Timothy Patriarca, executive director of Maitri hospice, the agency's HIV/AIDS residents won't miss the live broadcast of the parade. On June 11 a brand new 42-inch plasma flat screen TV with digital cable was set up for them to enjoy. Patriarca told the B.A.R. they are seeking donors to help cover the $1,500 cost of the purchase.
The new TV purchase wasn't related to Pride's broadcasting situation, but due to a tube blowing in the old TV earlier this month.
"It's one thing that is really important for the patients and creates community," said Patriarca, who told the B.A.R. that the residents were "happier than Christmas."