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Alabama Public Television in 'Destructive Spiral' After Curious Firings

The spat inside Alabama Public Television that we wrote about last week keeps evolving.

Since our article came out, Allan Pizzato, the former executive director who was fired for reasons that were never really spelled out, at least to me, has leveled a lawsuit at the Alabama Educational Television Commission (AETC) that oversees APT, claiming they violated Alabama’s open meetings act when they fired him last month, and claiming the commission chairman, Ferris W. Stephens, is serving illegally.

“Several months ago, it became clear that certain members of the Commission wanted to impose their own personal, political and religious views on other members of the Commission, the programming that aired on Alabama Public Television, the staff and the direction of the station itself,” the lawsuit says, according to the Birmingham News.

Several media outlets have reported that the rift between Pizzato and the commission stemmed from Pizzato’s reluctance to air programming with a deeply Christian bent; a commission member insisted to me that programming was not at the heart of the split, though he would not specify what was.

Charles Grantham, APT’s chief operating officer, has sent the Alabama governor a letter, which he shared with the media, outlining his dismay with the commission firing Pizzato.  His letter says APT, under Pizzato’s leadership, became a model in the public television world. Since Pizzato’s dismissal, he says, “staff morale is the lowest I have ever seen and we have no confidence in our commissioners.”

The governor appoints public television commission members in Alabama.

APT has also lost thousands of dollars, says Grantham, as a result of the fundraisers who resigned following Pizzato’s firing, and businesses and individuals yanking their support “based on the actions and perceived future actions of the AETC.”

“If something is not done immediately to stop this destructive spiral,” concludes Grantham, “it may be that history will record that under the watch of Governor Robert Bentley, Alabama Educational Television died an untimely death.”