Top network programmers say that they are gearing up for a potential writers'/ actors' strike, also that Washington has a valid point about media violence in Hollywood-but legislation isn't the answer.
The entertainment presidents of ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, UPN and The WB gathered at the Hollywood Television and Radio Society luncheon last week on the eve of the 2000-01 TV season for a panel moderated by CNN's Larry King.
Acknowledging that the violence issue may be just an election-year ploy. UPN's Tom Nunan said, "I think for once [Washington] is getting it right to the extent that they are really focusing in on the issues, rather than just pretending as if the industry is a whole. They are talking about marketing, where the motion pictures are marketing on the schedule."
CBS' Nancy Tellem defended the industry: "I think the issues are quite valid, but.we've adopted a ratings system which we believe in, and, ultimately, I think it's the parents' responsibility to make sure that kids are not watching inappropriate shows. This is something that I don't believe should be legislated."
NBC's Garth Ancier caused a buzz when he said he is not embarrassed about anything on TV "except for Dr. Laura." He also said he expects the Screen Actors Guild and the Writers Guild to strike early next year because the issues are so "intrinsic, especially for the actors."
NBC has ordered extra episodes of Law & Order to have if there is a strike, and Ancier said reality shows could fill other holes in the schedule. "We'll try to keep a semblance of our schedule on the air, but, obviously, nobody wants this to happen. It would be devastating to story-form television."
Tellem said, "We are still suffering from the last strike in 1988. We have a proliferation of newsmagazines, and I think it ultimately hurts the traditional series-type programming and we ought to do everything we can to resolve this."
Nunan called the reality-programming trend "alarming," although UPN airs WWF Smackdown! and many hours of reality specials. "I think it's a wake-up call for people in charge of scripted television. When people come in pitching half-hours or one-hours now, they know they are up against different, unique standards; they may be going up against a variety show, a game show or a Survivor-type show."