Tune out MTV, parents in Minnesota town urge cable subscribers

March 28, 1993|By Tim Nelson | Tim Nelson,Knight-Ridder News Service

OLIVIA, Minn. -- To MTV, or not to MTV?

That's the question these days in Olivia, a town of 2,620 people about two hours west of the Twin Cities.

It's "The Corn Capital," according to a sign on the east edge of the city.

The talk up at BOLD High School (the acronym is for Bird Island, Olivia and Lake Lillian District) and around town these days is about music videos. Ten years after the town was wired for cable TV, a group of parents say it may be time to cut the Music Television (MTV) channel out of the local cable picture.

"I guess we're just saying enough is enough," says Lynne Wiger, a member of the Citizen's Advisory Committee, a 25-member panel that functions something like a PTA for the school district.

In April, with the approval of the local school board, the committee will be mailing to parents a warning letter about MTV.

Ms. Wiger, mother of a boy, 12, and a girl, 14, is credited with starting the discussion about MTV -- television's high-voltage, rock and roll cable offering.

The channel, which Ms. Wiger considers "the most explicit network on television," occasionally features clips of scantily clad women dancing to sometimes rakish music.

"They're not all bad," Ms. Wiger says of the videos MTV features. "But I think it's saying to kids just the very opposite of what we want them to see and hear. . . . It takes away the innocence of children and doesn't give them a chance to be kids."

The committee, which includes parents, teachers and administrators, took a look at some of MTV's programming, talked to members of the local cable commission, and invited a Midwest Cablevision manager to speak.

"We talked about MTV and how we could get it off," says Linda Wagermaker, who works at a furniture store in Olivia.

A deal finally was struck a few weeks ago and approved by the school board. Next month, the advisory committee will mail to parents a newsletter titled "Fresh Air in April: The MTV Challenge."

It will include a $10 discount coupon, given by the cable company, toward the cost of a $25 device that can remove MTV from subscribers' cable service.

Mark Machart, area manager for Midwest Cablevision and an XTC MTV fan, says he isn't really sure what the flap is about. "Years ago, people were upset about Elvis Presley, and I don't really understand what's different about this," he says.

But he adds that he's trying to be sensitive to his customers' concerns. "Television tends to be one of the main forms of entertainment in greater Minnesota, and people out here take it very seriously," he says.

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