Cable panel to look at rules after show cancelled
Birmingham resident Paul Taros will have to wait a while to learn whether the Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees will put his political show, "Tough Talk With Taros" back on the air after it was pulled from Bloomfield Community Television (BCTV) in October due to potentially libelous material, it was determined at the board meeting on Monday, January 14, where trustees debated the ethics of shows which can offend portions of the community, or even slander or libel individuals.
Taros, an accountant by trade, has produced the show on the township's public access station for about two years. During that time, Taros has acquired a reputation for hosting some controversial guests, such as former Republican National Committee member Dave Agema, who was ousted by the party for homophobic and Islamaphobic posts he shared on Facebook. Taros' show was cancelled in October, after one of his guests made potentially slanderous statements about an elected official in Inkster. It was Taros' second offense by a guest on his show.
Bloomfield Community Television General Manager Greg Kowalski said the episode was pulled from the television schedule after a studio director notified him of a potential problem with the show. The episode in question never aired, with termination of the show following the decision.
"I looked at it and said, 'this can't go on the air,'" Kowalski said. "I know libel when I see it ... I referred it to the township attorney, and he agreed. At that point, we determined we would cancel the program."
In November, BCTV's Program Development Committee, which is responsible for approving and reviewing programs, held a public hearing at Taros' request to consider returning the show to the air, ultimately declining to take any action.
Attempting to appeal the decision to a higher authority, Taros appeared on Monday, January 14, before the Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees in hopes of resuming the show.
"I'm not a professional journalist or television host – I'm a CPA," Taros said. "I've been off the air for three months. I think that's punishment enough. I also want to point out that that show never aired, so there's no lawsuit. If reinstated, I promise to be more responsive to potentially slanderous remarks."
Taros said he would also be open to additional training or consulting to ensure his shows better adhere to the station's policies. Still, Taros and most of the roughly 10 supporters who spoke during public comments, claimed the matter to be a free speech issue.
Township clerk Jan Roncelli noted that the October incident is the second time the station had to pull a show before it was aired, suggesting that Taros' ability to produce the show in a responsible manner is outside of his realm of expertise.
Trustee Neal Barnett agreed.
"I don't think this is a teachable thing. I think that's something you know. When someone is saying reprehensible things and you just sit there," Barnett said. "My concern is when you have people on that have racist comments and your silence is deafening. That appears to make you look bigoted, and it makes our community look bigoted. When we come across as a bigoted community – not because of anything you said but because you didn't say anything – that's something where I can't give you another chance."
Trustees David Buckley and Dani Walsh indicated they would be open to giving Taros another chance to produce the show. Buckley noted he was unaware of the programming of BCTV, and had not seen any shows. However, the board decided to take no action at the meeting, instead tabling the issue until a later date.
Bloomfield Township Supervisor Leo Savoie proposed working with Kowalski and the Birmingham Area Cable Board, which the station provides programming for, to form an oversight committee to address the issue, community ethics and any future conflicts.
Savoie said the formation of a recommending advisory committee speaks to a larger issue in the township. “It relates to how and when decisions are presented to and determined by the township's governing body or another committee,” he said, questioning the advisability of trustees overriding decisions of township committees or boards.
Kowalski on Wednesday, January 16, confirmed an effort is moving forward. The specific makeup of the board and when it would be formed wasn't yet determined. Meanwhile, Taros' show will remain off the air until the committee can make a recommendation.