CBS chief assails TV over violence TURNED ON IN LA. -- Fall Preview

July 20, 1993|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Television Critic

LOS ANGELES -- The issue of TV violence continues to dominate discussions, as the networks preview their new fall shows.

CBS Group President Howard Stringer says that TV has played a role in making viewers indifferent to real-life violence and that the industry has to take steps to mend its ways.

"In both the movie industry and on television, we have changed the depiction of violence," Stringer says.

"Dramatists, through 3,000 years, have managed to convey through tragedy and drama that death and suffering are horrible."

"We, on the other hand, have managed in the vast entertainment industry to breed one response to violent death.

"And that is indifference.

"And that's the issue that's facing our society: the notion that if you kill people, it doesn't matter, because there are no consequences. We have depersonalized violence."

Stringer says there's a "general level of cynicism" in the entertainment industry, which says that "pushing the envelope means going for the graphic" both in matters of sex and violence.

He says that's going to change.

"Pushing the envelope has got to come to mean taking risks and occasionally that means with a typewriter."

*

CBS says it's time to get serious about retransmission or cable subscribers might not see "60 Minutes," "Roseanne," "Seinfeld" or any of their other favorite shows this fall.

Under last year's Cable TV Act, television stations can demand payment from cable operators for the right to carry their shows.

If the cable operators don't pay, they will no longer be allowed to carry network and local shows after Oct. 6.

More than 90 percent of the stations in the country are now demanding payment, according to the National Association of Broadcasters. And virtually all the large cable operators say they are not going to pay.

There has been a lot of posturing among the broadcasters and cable industry in the press.

But CBS says the time for posturing is past.

"It's getting late in the game," says Jay Kriegel, a senior vice president at CBS in charge of retransmission for the network.

"We're negotiating and we hope something can be worked out, but it's possible that it could be a very disruptive fall for cable viewers . . . their favorite show going off their cable systems just as the new TV season is starting. That's what we're looking at unless something happens soon."

*

Remember that special night Bette Midler said goodbye to Johnny Carson through song?

Midler says it was special for her, too.

During a CBS session to promote her made-for-TV version of "Gypsy," Midler was asked about the night on Carson.

"That was probably the happiest night of my whole life," she said. "It was completely enchanting.

"In my whole life, in all I have ever done, I have never received such an outpouring of love and good will as I did after that show.

"People were so thrilled by that evening and I think they were so glad, because they felt that I had given him something that he deserved -- what they wanted to give him if they could have."

Midler said she has never looked at the tape of her performance, because she doesn't want to spoil her memory of it.

"I have this wonderful, golden memory of that night . . . and

that's what I want to keep always."

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