Will BYUtv ever stop getting questions about its owners’ stance on the LGBTQ community?
I doubt it. Not as long as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continues to oppose same-sex marriage and teach that it’s a sin to “engage in any homosexual behavior.”
So, no, it wasn’t exactly a surprise when the question came up not once but twice during an online press conference for one of BYUtv’s series:
• “How does BYU justify being pro-family if it is excluding same-sex families?”
• And executive producer Matt Hornburg was asked if he is “concerned about producing content for a school with such a problematic anti-gay stance?”
Mind you, while the questions were pretty much the same as they were when BYUtv returned to the Television Critics Association press tour in early 2019, the tone was different. It wasn’t as confrontational and accusing — but that was, no doubt, due at least in part to the fact that the questions were typed in by critics and read by a moderator.
(With the pandemic forcing the cancellation of the semi-annual Television Critics Association press tour, we’re doing a number of online question-and-answer sessions with execs, stars and producers from PBS and a number of cable and streaming outlets. It’s nowhere near as good as getting to ask questions and follow-ups in person, but it’s better than nothing.)
The questions came during a press conference for Season 2 of the BYUtv series “All-Round Champion,” which doesn’t delve into sexual orientation in any way. It features 10 Olympic athletes competing in sports other than their own. And host (and former hurdler) Perdita Felicien, figure skater Caiyla Shaw and ski jumper Estella Hassrick all looked more than a bit nonplussed when the questions were asked.
There were no BYUtv executives online to take the questions. Which may have been good planning on their part — at least from their perspective.
(That’s one of the advantages of in-person press tours. Critics and reporters can approach network executives to ask questions like this.)
Executive producer Matt Hornberg handled the questions by pointing out that “All-Round Champion” is a co-production of BYUtv and two public broadcasters in Canada (TVOntario and Knowledge Network), which are “very progressive.” So he “wasn’t concerned at all” about working with BYUtv and he’s “really proud of the show and what we’ve achieved.”
Don’t get me wrong. The questions about BYUtv and the LGBTQ community are 100% legitimate. There is something non sequitur — even hypocritical — about a TV channel that proclaims it’s inclusive and intended for families when it excludes families with gay moms, dads, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles or grandparents.
It’s also worth pointing out that I have yet to see any BYUtv programming that I would in any way classify as anti-gay — outside of some talks delivered by leaders of the LDS Church. But I also haven’t seen members of the LGBTQ community openly represented.
Yes, there have been gay actors and gay crew members on some series, but not gay characters. It’s a world where the LGBTQ community doesn’t exist. So, yes, BYUtv is going to be questioned about that until ... unless ... something changes.
I don’t anticipate that’s going to happen anytime in the foreseeable future. So the questions will continue.