Though CBS publicly apologized for running a picture of GOP presidentail contender George W. Bush with “snipers wanted” as a caption on a latenight show, FCC commissioner Gloria Tristani has admonished the network to further account for the “appalling broadcast.”
Tristani is the latest Washington player to make violence and the entertainment industry a high-profile issue. Democratic presidential contender Al Gore and veep contender Sen. Joseph Lieberman are both advocates of putting pressure on the entertainment industry to tone down programming.
In a letter to CBS prexy Leslie Moonves dated Aug. 18, Tristani wrote that many viewers have contacted her demanding the government take action over the spot on “The Late Late Show With Craig Kilborn,” aired earlier this month during the week of the Republican National Convention.
“Perhaps there is no government solution for bad taste or the thoughtless broadcast of misguided humor. However, American’s patience with gratuitous violence on her airwaves is perilously thin,” Tristani stated in the letter.
“Calls for voluntary codes of conduct are changing to calls for enforceable regulatory standards. I urge CBS to meaningfully respond to these citizens and use this incident to assess its public interest obligations,” the letter continued.
Gil Schwartz, a CBS spokesman, said the network concurs it is a broadcaster’s duty to serve the public and that its record is exemplary in that regard, hence the decision of the Eye to issue several public apologies following an internal review of the incident, including an on-air apology by host Craig Kilborn last week.
The Bush campaign accepted the apologies, Schwartz said.
Yet commissioner Tristani told Daily Variety she has continued to receive viewer complaints, indicating the apologies weren’t sufficient. “This (picture) was something that could incite anyone to violence,” she said.
Tristani said she previously asked FCC commissioner William Kennard to hold special hearings on violent programming, and that she expects such hearings to proceed.
In her letter to Moonves, Tristani also took umbrage with a recent spot on “The Howard Stern Radio Show” — a syndicated show produced by a division of CBS — in which a caller threatened to kill Lieberman. Stern cut the caller off.
“Two concerns dominate the calls I have received: the misuse of the public’s airwaves to suggest that violence solves problems, and the implicit endorsement of vigilante action against those with different opinions,” Tristani wrote to Moonves.
Schwartz said CBS does appreciate Tristani’s concerns and will answer her letter.