The University of California-San Diego is embroiled in a controversy as a pornography video made by a student aired on the student-run television station. While the station‘s $8,000 annual budget is paid for by student fees, the student council voted last week to finally ban nudity and graphic sex from the student station.
Is this a case of Freedom of Speech censorship or cleaning up inappropriate viewing habits? The debate comes off campus into Scarborough Country. MSNBC-TV's Joe Scarborough talks to the video‘s director and star, Steve York, and student senator Kate Pillon who is vocally supporting the ban.
Pill-in, just pretend like the O is an I.
JOE SCARBOROUGH, SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY HOST: Steve, Why are you doing this? Why are you still fighting this fight?
STEVE YORK, STUDENT PORN PRODUCER STAR: Because I think this is a really distinct and important battle, for First Amendment student expression. After both myself and my show, “Koala TV,” was banned in February, and we dealt with the sanctions and waited until October 5 when the student council in a 9-1 vote decided not to take this same sexual material ban, we decided that it was time to come back after our vice chancellor threatened to pull the plug on the entire station because the student council did not make these changes. So we did it for a political statement to really have fun, to raise this issue.
SCARBOROUGH: OK, OK, so Steve, this is where you lose me, though. I mean, if you want to go out and film porn of yourself and girls, that is your business. I am a libertarian, Okay? But I don‘t want to pay for it. People in California don‘t want to pay for it. Students who were forced to pay student fees don‘t want to pay for it. I mean, it‘s not free speech if we are subsidizing it, is it?
YORK: Unfortunately, I have to disagree with you, Joe. A majority of students do support this material, and its broadcast.
KATE PILLON, UCSD STUDENT GOVERNMENT: Where do you get your numbers, Steve?
YORK: Where do I get my numbers? I get my numbers from numerous different polls, from talking with hundreds of students, and even, Kate, you yourself admit you have to protect a not-insignificant minority. What is that? I am sick of this whole idea of moral views and we have to protect the minority.
SCARBOROUGH: Do you have religious broadcasting on this closed circuit station? If somebody decided to go on and have the Jesus hour of power.
YORK: It would totally fine.
SCARBOROUGH: Would the state university allow that?
YORK: Yes, because SRTV is fully content neutral. It does not matter what your political affiliation or religious affiliation or what you want to do on this programming. You are free to come in and do it, and SRTV will help you.
SCARBOROUGH: OK. So what.
PILLON: SRTV is viewpoint neutral. There‘s a difference between viewpoint and content neutrality, Steve, you have to admit that.
SCARBOROUGH: Kate, help me out here. You opposed this obviously from the very beginning.
PILLON: Yes, I did, that 9-1 vote, I was that 1.
SCARBOROUGH: I understand also though that Steve actually superimposed your face on a video? Could you explain that?
PILLON: Well, his most recent episode was the same one as the previous week, except you are right, my face was superimposed onto the girl‘s body, and there were lewd comments made, there were names being called, and it was interesting.
SCARBOROUGH: Is that a First Amendment exercise on your part too, because I‘ve got to tell you, it sounds like a terrible thing to do.
YORK: I hate to say it to you, Joe, but the First Amendment does protect low-brow satire of public figures, and Kate is a public figure.
SCARBOROUGH: But why do I have to pay for it, Steve, you can do whatever you want to do.
PILLON: Don‘t make this a First Amendment issue.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, Steve, you can do whatever you want to do. If you want to take pictures, if you want to go get PhotoShop, and you want to cut my face out of it and put it on a naked body, I don‘t care.
PILLON: But we aren‘t obligated to air it.
SCARBOROUGH: I don‘t want to pay for it.
YORK: Joe, you are not paying for it. Will you get over that? This is not a taxpayer issue.
SCARBOROUGH: I am not going to get over that. You are at a public university. You are using equipment used by the public university. It‘s being broadcast.
YORK: That students paid for.
SCARBOROUGH: Over a public university system.
YORK: That students directly paid for.
SCARBOROUGH: The students — hold on a second. Every student on that public university campus is required to pay student fees. They don‘t have the choice to opt out, do they?
YORK: Ah, yes, they do. There is a full refund policy for any sort of A.S.-funded activity or media organization where if students do have a problem with it, there‘s a refund procedure for them to fill out, and they will get their money back. Students, on the average, pay roughly 35 cents an entire year for SRTV, I think that pales in comparison, compared to religious organizations or programming like concerts, so $8,000, they will get their 35 cents a year back. And if they want that option, they certainly do have it.
SCARBOROUGH: Now, Kate, Steve is telling us that no tax dollars are being paid here, despite the fact that again, it‘s at a public university. It‘s obviously there‘s wiring for the closed circuitry. This isn‘t a free ride. Is your main objection the taxpayer-funded side of it, or is it a moral issue?
PILLON: Well, no, no, it‘s neither a moral nor a taxpayer side of the issue. We maintain that it is student fee-fund and student-controlled, and because it‘s student-controlled through the student government, of which I am a part and who has taken action on this issue, because it‘s our responsibility to take accountability for our service, and make sure that we are send sending a positive message. This isn‘t a free speech issue.
YORK: Take accountability in censoring a politically.
PILLON: This isn‘t censorship, Steve.
YORK: Protected — yes, it is. You‘re censoring.
PILLON: No, it‘s not.
YORK: You are actively.
PILLON: This is not a First Amendment issue.
YORK: You are reactively censoring a program.
PILLON: I am not telling you.
SCARBOROUGH: Wait, hold on a second, hold on a second. Steve, hold on a second, Steve.
PILLON: Hold on, let me respond to his censorship.
SCARBOROUGH: You talked about a politically important program or politically protected program. You are having sex with a girl on film. I‘m sorry.
PILLON: Right, let me talk about censorship for a minute, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: This isn‘t exactly Thomas Jefferson standing in the public square here, Steve.
YORK: Well, there‘s a distinct difference, because we have the—we could go down to the Library Walk at any date, and show this material.
PILLON: Right, and we aren‘t trying to stop you from doing that. What we‘re trying to stop.
YORK: But that‘s not our point because we have an audience in mind. That our audience at 10:30, 11:00 at night.
PILLON: What we are saying is that we are not obligated to show your pornography. We are not obligated to air it.
YORK: Oh, so you are not obligated to protect students‘ speech.
PILLON: You can make it. You can distribute it. You can show it on Library Walk. That‘s not what we‘re saying.
YORK: Kate, Kate, Kate, where were you when pro-war students were chased out of Warren College Television and it was shut down indefinitely? I didn‘t hear you speak up against the school administration.
PILLON: Warren College TV is administration-run.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. We are getting down to the weeds, as they say in the Panhandle. Steve York, Kate Pillon, take it out on the streets. Continue the fight. We appreciate you being there.
Bottom line, it‘s a public university. We are all paying for it. They just shouldn‘t allow this to be on any TV station that is funded by the universities. And of course, you know, if Steve wants to do this in his own bedroom, that‘s his business. Not mine. But again, I don‘t want you to have to pay for it.