Studio bosses blast anti-drug message effort

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Studio bosses blast anti-drug message effort

January 15, 2000

BY DAVID BAUDER ASSOCIATED PRESS

PASADENA, Calif.–The bosses of several studios that produce prime-time TV shows said Friday they are angry that the networks had been working with President Clinton’s drug policy adviser to insert anti-drug messages into programs.

Five studio heads, responsible for shows such as “ER,” “The Drew Carey Show” and “The Simpsons,” all said they were unaware the networks were offered financial incentives by the government if certain programs preached against drugs.

“I think it’s appalling,” said Gail Berman, president of Regency Television, which makes “Malcolm in the Middle” and “Roswell.” “It’s inappropriate for government to participate in this way in the production of television.”

Clinton’s drug advisers said they had consulted with “ER” writers and that they believed a recent episode in which a teenager came into the emergency room suffering from alcohol abuse was a result of their efforts.

Peter Roth, president of Warner Brothers Television, which makes “ER” for NBC, said neither he nor “ER” producer John Wells was aware of the government’s efforts. Roth said he never would demand that his producers or writers reflect a particular point of view on a social issue, even if there were a financial benefit.

Clinton denied that his drug office was trying to rob TV networks of creative freedom through the policy.

“There was no attempt to regulate content or tell people what they had to put into it,” he said Friday. “Of course, I wouldn’t support that.”

The government spends millions of dollars a year to buy ads on network TV for anti-drug public service announcements. Recently, it has been forfeiting some of the time it bought if the networks could prove they inserted anti-drug messages into programs. That enables the networks to make more money by selling ad time to other clients.

ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and the WB all acknowledge letting the White House review scripts of some of their programs.

Officials from Clinton’s drug office were in Pasadena on Friday to release a study that concludes television generally does better than movies or music when it comes to depicting drug, alcohol and tobacco use responsibly. The study encompassed a period in which the officials were working with the networks to get their message across.

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