Press

ABC Affiliate To Seal Ellen’s Closet Door

Date: 
April 10, 1997

An ABC affiliate in Birmingham, Alabama , according to press reports, will not be airing the April 30 episode of Ellen, the hit TV comedy because the show's main character, Ellen Morgan, will come out as a lesbian. It was reported that officials at WBMA, also known as Alabama's 33/40, announced the decision late yesterday. The station reaches approximately half of the state's population. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, (NGLTF) immediately announced its outrage at the reported decision.

This is the first and only station known to cancel the airing of this Ellen episode, according to ABC. Officials at the Birmingham station claim the episode is not appropriate "family viewing." However, activists in the gay community see their decision to drop the episode as a form of censorship. "The station should not try to dictate to Alabama viewers what is appropriate to watch" stated NGLTF executive director Kerry Lobel, "especially when all the other affiliates apparently are airing the program."

The Alabama lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community is angered at the station's actions and have called station officials for a meeting. "This is a black eye for Birmingham. The people of Alabama are fully capable of making their own decision about whether or not to tune into this episode," stated David White of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance of Alabama. Thousands of gay and lesbian people live, breathe, eat and work in Alabama. Taking an episode of Ellen off the air doesn't change that fact," added White.

"At first it was a few advertisers backing away from the episode because of their apparent skittishness about the show's content," noted Mark F. Johnson, NGLTF Media Director. "Now, it looks like one station is making a single-handed effort to seal the closet door." All the controversy surrounding the program makes it that much more appealing to curious viewers, Johnson observed. "This controversy reminds me of the hoopla that accompanied the broadcast of the "gay episode" of Roseanne, " Johnson noted. "That show continues to be very successful all over the country," he pointed out.

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance of Alabama is requesting a meeting with station officials in an attempt to change the decision. "We hope this decision was based on ignorance, not malice and that station officials will realize their mistake," said White. "We will not condone censorship and intolerance," he added.

To reach David White call 205-985-5609 or email him at galaa1@aol.com. To contact the Gay and Lesbian Alliance of Alabama, call 205-425-2286.

Let WBMA know how you feel, WBMA 33/40 can be reached at 205-403-xxxx

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.