The National Council on the Arts yesterday backed the Public Broadcasting Service's decision to air the controversial film, "Death of a Princess," on Monday.

The council, a presidentially appointed body, holding a quarterly meeting here, passed a resolution saying it "condemns any efforts which could be construed as censorship, particularly at this time, any efforts which could threaten the integrity of programming at PBS or abridge its rights under the First Amendment."

The resolution comes on the heels of a ruling in Houston Friday where the judge ordered a public television station to air the program. The Saudi Arabian government, Mobil Oil Corp. and two influential members of Congress have protested to PBS about showing the program.

"This resolution will be perceived as a support of free ideas," said Martin Friedman, the director of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and an arts council member.

The council serves as an advisory body to the National Endowment for the Arts.

The issue of the film, a drama about the 1977 execution of a Saudi Arabian princess, was sidestepped in the resolution. "I have some problems with the showing of the film," said council member and arts patron Dolores Wharton.

"There is a culture being questioned in the film. I personally probably will not view it. But any efforts to deny us First Amendment rights I stand resolutely against," she said.