Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

City TV Stations Defend Their Standards for Talk Shows Viewers Have Ultimate Say, Executives Insist

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

City TV Stations Defend Their Standards for Talk Shows Viewers Have Ultimate Say, Executives Insist

Article excerpt

A band of influential Washingtonians opposed to the seamy side of talk television call their campaign a matter of citizenship, not censorship.

But at television stations here, some executives see the heavy hand of government coming down on their desks. Another says her station already censors itself.

"I'm a little troubled," says Max Lummis, general manager of KPLR-TV (Channel 11).

In a phone interview Friday, he said, "I'm a proponent of looser controls and less government. Some people find talk television objectionable - but I find it objectionable when government wants to tell us how to run our lives."

At KTVI-TV (Channel 2), general manager Spencer Koch said, "Obviously, nobody can condone every topic in the talk-show format.

"But what concerns me is the possibility of judging what viewers should watch. The viewers have their own way to decide, their own polling system: They watch, or they don't watch."

At KSDK-TV (Channel 5), program director Rebecca Rahm said her station paid close attention to criticism from its viewers, "and in fact we use this information from time to time when we decide not to air certain programs with extreme subject matter."

For example?

"Well, last spring, Jerry Springer had one such topic - a woman who slept with more than 100 men in 24 hours.

"We chose not to air that."

And Channel 2's Koch said talk shows were hardly alone in gaminess. "Have you seen the soap operas lately?" he asked. "You'd be amazed."

Despite the concern of Channel 11's Lummis, the campaign in Washington isn't exactly the work of government, even though some of its big names hold Senate seats.

The main critic appears former Education Secretary William Bennett.

There was a time, Bennett said Thursday, "when personal failure or marital failure, subliminal desires, perverse tastes were accompanied by a sense of guilt or embarrassment.

"Today, these are a ticket to appear on the Sally Jessy Raphael show to be broadcast for children to watch," Bennett said. …

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