A program called “The Shape of Things to Come,” which is produced quarterly by the Atlanta Regional Commission, was taken off the county’s TV station, TV23 Government Access Channel, Tuesday following a complaint from some of Commissioner Bob Ott’s constituents.
“A couple of people in east Cobb contacted me, and they felt like it was biased,” Ott said. “They said that the show was not totally about TIA, but the way they described it to me, it presented a doom and gloom picture of what the TIA doesn’t have and that overall it had a significant gleam towards approval of the TIA.”
Ott, who said he hadn’t watched the program and declined to release the names of the people who made the complaints, said county government should not be advocating one way or the other.
“Once we had the complaint, we pulled it from air and asked the county attorneys office to take a look at it and see if they felt that it was advocating for the sales tax,” county spokesperson Robert Quigley said. “They had concerns and thought that it could be perceived as advocating.”
County attorney Joseph Atkins decided Wednesday afternoon to pull it from the channel’s lineup, he said.
The show included a 10-minute interview with ARC Chairman Tad Leithead and Jane Hayse, the chief of transportation for ARC, who both spoke about the ARC’s Plan 2040, the future transportation needs of the region and how voters will have a “chance to accelerate transportation improvements” by voting on the TIA referendum July 31.
The program also showed an array of comments from Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Henry County Commissioner B.J. Mathis, Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson and Fayetteville Mayor Ken Steele, all in favor of TSPLOST, and an interview with Johnson and Mathis, both members of the ARC Roundtable, talking about what’s at stake if voters don’t approve the referendum.
County Chairman Tim Lee said he was notified of the program being pulled shortly after it was taken off the air Tuesday.
“That’s unusual (for a program to be taken off air), so that’s why they let me know,” he said.
Lee hasn’t personally received any complaints about the program, nor did he ever see the interview, but supports the county’s decision to pull it.
Quigley said they began airing the show in mid-February five to seven days each week during different time slots.
“We also get programs from the Army, Navy, from the extension service, from the state, programs from Washington, D.C., with our local representatives,” he said. “It is one of many programs we run on the channel, and ordinarily there’s not an issue with the content on programs produced by other governments.”
The ARC production is distributed throughout metro Atlanta and something Cobb County has been running for years, but Quigley said that in the future, his department would take a closer look at ARC programming before it’s aired.
A seven-member panel dictates what is appropriate for TV23 viewers, the channel designation, management of the channel and programming types. Cobb Board of Commissioners can amend the policy.