Star Trek is an important program for many of us, but when we say this, we’re usually talking about the role it plays on a more personal level, for individual fans, or maybe we’re talking about the impact the iconic franchise had on science fiction as an entire genre. One broadcaster, however, is now claiming that Gene Roddenberry’s beloved television series is in fact a vital piece of its “community affairs programming.”
When the Federal Communications Commission—the government agency tasked with overseeing all radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable broadcasts in the United States—allowed KJWP to make the move from Wyoming to Delaware, it was contingent on their offering programs of value to the Wilmington area. This was the culmination of five-year legal battle. The TV station’s attorney says, “It looked to us like there was a dearth of locally based news coverage in Delaware.”
That all sounds pretty straight forward, doesn’t it? But as it turns out, the folks at KJWP have their own interpretation of what this means, which may or may not jive with the FCC rules and regulations. They claim that shows like Star Trek, Wagon Train, and Rawhide, all of which figure prominently in their programming schedule, address “matters of importance to its community of license.” We couldn’t agree more, but we’re not sure how the government feels.
KJWP filed a notice with the FCC, detailing how this slate of shows fulfills their side of the deal and justifies getting access to the airwaves when they’re supposed to be keeping the community up on current affairs. In their opinion, these are important issues that face people who live within their broadcast area:
1) International conflicts/civil wars and related arming of combatant parties
2) Prejudice and race relations
3) The place of technology vs. man in society
4) The importance of the rule of law vs. the rule of persons
To support their claims, they detail a number of episodes of these various show that address these topics. For example, read their description of the Star Trek episode “The Omega Glory,” which they say falls into the first category:
The Enterprise investigates the disappearance of another starship and discovers a planet where the inhabitants are immortal and engaged in a strange parallel of Earth’s Cold War period.
Or how about the episodes “A Private Little War”:
Kirk becomes involved in an arms race when the Klingons equip a native people with superior weapons.
And “The Ultimate Computer”:
Starfleet uses the Enterprise to test a new super-sophisticated computer, but it soon develops a mind of its own.
Star Trek is well known for tackling social and political issues head on. Roddenberry purposely assembled a multi-racial cast and filled the scripts with hot button topics of the day, but even here, where we’re prone to assigning more weight to our favorite science fiction properties than most people, this is a bit of a stretch. Still, good for them for trying.