Censorship fears push ABC from federal program

Asking for scripts seemed too much, president says

January 16, 2000|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

PASADENA, Calif. -- A top ABC executive stoked a Washington-Hollywood dispute yesterday, saying the network stopped participating in part of a federal program after a policy change put the government in a position to influence the content of ABC's programming.

The remarks, made by ABC Television Network President Pat Fili-Krushel at a seasonal media gathering to promote ABC shows, appeared to contradict statements earlier in the week by officials of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Under the federally funded program, networks could gain financial credits in exchange for weaving anti-drug themes into their shows.

The issue, which emerged last week, has embarrassed officials at the Drug Control office and the broadcast networks, who are distancing themselves from the suggestion that government had a line to network programming.

In the 2-year-old program, the government buys ad time for anti-drug public service announcements on the networks. In turn, the networks are required to match the dollars with public service announcements. But a network can earn credits for a portion of that time by including anti-drug storylines in its shows. ABC said it had submitted a number of shows for credit during the 1998-1999 season.

In the spring, however, ABC said it was told by Alan Levitt, director of the anti-drug media campaign, that instead of submitting tapes of finished shows, this season it would be required to submit scripts. "It wasn't something we were comfortable doing," Fili-Krushel said.

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