Affils Weather Protests

Nov 10, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Charlie Hogetvedt is general manager of KKTV, the Gray Television-owned CBS affiliate in Colorado Springs, Colo. In the weeks before CBS pulled the plug on its miniseries “The Reagans,” Mr. Hogetvedt said he received hundreds of phone calls and e-mail messages from viewers in what he described as “a very conservative market” who were already anticipating it would be a hatchet job.
In another small city in the Western United States, a station manager at another CBS affiliate heard from advertisers and viewers that they expected to “be unhappy” about what they were to see. All that station manager could say to protesters was, “I think we’ve got to give it a fair viewing. If it’s wrong, I’m going to share a lot of what you are saying.”
Their plight and their angst were typical of many CBS affiliates across the country. After a version of the script was leaked to The New York Times, they were barraged by protests, many fanned by conservative politicians and right-wing pundits.
They found themselves essentially defenseless. They hadn’t seen the first frame of the miniseries, starring James Brolin and Judy Davis. They had received no electronic press kits or trailers. When they requested such items, which a network usually sends along as a matter of course, they were told it was against CBS policy to provide them with a screener.
“The stations were taking an absolute pounding on this thing,” said CBS affiliates advisory board Chairman and Schurz Communications executive Bob Lee, who characterized the protests he received in Roanoke, Va., as bearing “no signs of any sort of organized campaigning.”
In the end, no affiliates broke rank before CBS announced last week that “The Reagans” would go to sister pay-cable channel Showtime, and that the time on CBS would be filled with a two-hour “CSI” on Nov. 16 and rebroadcasts of “Without a Trace” and “CSI: Miami” on Nov. 18.