Upset by pulled segs, they worry tamer show'll tank

Studios USA is in for a fight with some of its “Jerry Springer” station affils over the distrib’s decision to rein in the bleeps, brawls and bods that have become a staple of the raucous syndie talkshow.

Studios USA clamped down on the enfant terrible of the talkshow world this week by substituting older segs from the tamer 1993-94 era for the new episodes originally set to air this week, which marked the tail end of the May sweep (April 29-May 26).

On Tuesday, Studios USA, the syndie arm of Barry Diller’s fast-growing USA Networks conglom, issued a statement reiterating its intent to tone down the show, which has become a lightning rod for culture warriors.

“We will produce and distribute a program that we feel is responsible — no violence, physical confrontation or profanity,” the statement read. “That program will either be an original or a qualifying re-edited repeat. We will inform stations that we are not providing any ‘Jerry Springer’ program if these standards cannot be met.”

Piqued off

“Springer” affils, including its Los Angeles outlet, KCAL, were upset that they were not alerted by the distrib in advance that they’d be receiving vintage reruns.

And because stations are now paying higher prices for the show, whose ratings have skyrocketed over the past two years, affils are concerned that new PG-rated “Springer” segs would not generate the same Nielsen returns.

“This is a bad way to do business, especially in the last three days of the May book,” said Kevin O’Brien, prexy and general manager of Fox affil KTVU San Francisco. “We were not informed that this was going to happen, and I think it’s a very dramatic decision to be made in response to what seems to be public pressure.”

Hand washing

As some stations talked of exploring their legal options for dropping the show, there was speculation that USA would seek to wash its hands of the PR problem by selling or sublicensing “Springer” distribution rights to an outside syndicator.

Springer himself did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Studios USA actually sought to tone down “Springer” in the face of strong criticism this time last year, but the anti-violence pledge never stuck. Insiders blame lax oversight of the show by Studios USA brass as last year’s controversy waned.

Now, as the rash of school shootings has heightened public scrutiny of media violence, sources say the distrib has “taken steps to ensure that the policy” regarding the content of “Springer” is strictly enforced.

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