“Be afraid, be very afraid” is how NBC Entertainment president Warren Littlefield summed up the network’s position on the new TV content rating system, which the Peacock web alone has refused to implement.
At the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena Saturday, Littlefield said, “In my 20 years of broadcasting, I have never been more afraid than I have been of the ratings issue, and trust me, I’ve had a rocky career.”
He added that what started as “a little snowball” has turned into a “potential avalanche,” and the new labeling system is just the latest step toward total content control.
“They’re all coming out of the closet now and saying, ‘We don’t want to label your garbage, we want to remove your garbage,’ ” he said, pointing to the fact that just after the government agreed to a three-year moratorium on TV content legislation in exchange for the new content codes, FCC chairman Reed Hundt testified to Congress in favor of such legislation. “I think there was some shock at how quickly the three-year moratorium shifted to a three-hour moratorium,” Littlefield quipped.
Wolf challenges McCain
Separately, Dick Wolf, executive producer of NBC drama “Law & Order” and the upcoming “Players,” challenged Senate Commerce Committee chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) Friday to a debate on the new TV content ratings system.
“How come none of you has talked about the irony of Sen. McCain leading the charge on protecting children from those murderous 30-inch Sonys out there, when this is a man who voted against the five-day waiting period and voted against the Brady Bill?” Wolf asked the critics.
“If I had written a story 20 years ago and been up here saying, ‘I got this great TV movie that I’m doing, and the government is going to implant a chip in everybody’s TV sets in 20 years, and they’re going to be able to control what comes into your house,’ you would have had me locked up,” Wolf added.
“What makes you think 20 years in the future some reactionary isn’t going to be elected and somebody isn’t going to say, ‘You know, this free access to news is really pretty dangerous’ ?”
In response to Wolf’s comments, McCain issued a statement saying the rating system has nothing to do with gun control and “perhaps Mr. Wolf is afraid to give parents this information because it may lead them to find his programs objectionable.” Wolf responded with his own statement challenging McCain to a debate and saying, “I have nothing to fear.”
Also at the press tour, NBC announced it has ordered three midseason comedies: “House Rules” from Columbia TriStar TV, “Lateline” from Paramount Network TV and “You Send Me” from Warner Bros. TV.
Noticeably absent from the press tour screenings was NBC’s new Thursday night sitcom “Union Square.” Perhaps the strongest sign yet of NBC’s favoritism toward its own inhouse productions, “Union Square” will debut in the coveted Thursday 8:30 p.m. slot between “Friends” and “Seinfeld,” despite the fact that the pilot was so poorly received it’s being reshot with a new lead.