In their first public comments about gay activists’ protests against upcoming yakker “Dr. Laura,” Paramount execs said they stand firmly behind the show, which they plan to debut Sept. 11.
“The people who have been protesting the show are doing it rightfully so. Once it is on the air, the judgment will be made. Ultimately, viewers will give us the answers,” said Frank Kelly, co-president of Paramount Domestic Television, which is producing and distributing the show that stars controversial radio host and author Laura Schlessinger.
Protestors from the gay community have taken issue with Paramount for launching a TV show featuring Schlessinger, who has referred to homosexuals as “biological errors” and “deviants” on her nationally syndicated radio show. Activists have staged rallies outside the Paramount Studio’s gates and directed a phone campaign at the studio and stations that have agreed to carry “Dr. Laura.”
Kelly and his fellow co-president, Joel Berman, were called upon Wednesday to comment on the show’s status during the first Hollywood Radio & Television Society Newsmaker Luncheon devoted to the syndication business.
TV biz vet Jerry Nachman moderated a panel comprised of John Moczulski, VP of programming and marketing for the CBS Stations; Jerry Springer, host of the “Jerry Springer Show”; Dick Robertson, president of Warner Bros. Domestic TV Distribution; Deborah Norville, anchor of “Inside Edition”; and Larry Lyttle, president of Big Ticket Television.
Kelly deemed “unrealistic” a press report that said Paramount intended not to promote the show or lobby for key time periods in order to let it languish after 13 episodes air. “When we sold this show to stations, they did not buy it because they’re going to air it in the middle of the night,” he said.
Indeed, panelist Moczulski, whose station group includes eight stations to have picked up the show, says the stations haven’t varied “one iota” from their initial support for the show. CBS stations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Dallas have met with gay and lesbian groups, and the four other CBS stations on board have plans to meet with gay activism groups as well.
“With ‘Dr. Laura,’ there’s been more and louder feedback and press generated than I’ve seen for a show in a long time,” Moczulski said.
Panelists Robertson and Lyttle indicated that attention may actually pay off in favor of the show.
“It will probably have the exact opposite effect than the people complaining plan,” Robertson said.
“Any publicity attracts eyeballs,” Lyttle added.
Springer, who has drawn much press and protest for his own syndicated show over the years, weighed in several times about the importance of enforcing free speech, so that “TV reflects all of the American landscape.”
“I sleep well at night knowing Howard Stern is on the air,” Springer added.
Norville concurred, likening the syndication business at its best to a quilt whose patches are all varied.
Springer offered a “final thought” on the “Dr. Laura” situation and free speech’s status in syndicated television: “As offensive as I find her views, she’s got to be protected.”