NBC officials said Monday that the TV network probably will soon air an altered version of a public service announcement on birth control that all three television networks rejected in August as too controversial.
CBS and ABC spokesmen said their networks haven't been asked yet to screen or air the new version of the 30-second announcement. But George Schweitzer, a CBS spokesman, said his network would broadcast it if it meets CBS guidelines.
The disputed announcement was made by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) as part of the group's new $100,000 public education and media campaign to curb abortions and reduce the 3.3 million unintended pregnancies that it says occur each year in the United States.
ACOG says its original announcement was accepted by Cable News Network, the MTV rock-video network, 50 radio stations and 150 television stations. But the networks balked at airing a closing portion of the announcement that said: "Nothing changes any intention faster than unintended pregnancy. Unintended pregnancies have risks, greater risks than any of today's contraceptives."
Spokesmen for all three networks said the line "greater risks than any of today's contraceptives" was deemed too controversial, tended toward advocacy of contraception and thus was unacceptable for airing as a public service announcement, or "PSA," as the industry calls such announcements that are broadcast without charge.
Toll-Free 800 Number
Mort Lebow, a spokesman for ACOG in Washington, said the revised announcement deletes the "greater risks" passage and replaces it with this: "There are many ways to prevent the risks of unintended pregnancies." The announcement ends by giving a toll-free 800 number for viewers to call for more information.
Lebow said NBC executives, who last August suggested and held a meeting with ACOG officials to resolve the problem, had tentatively approved the new spot.
Ralph Daniels, an NBC vice president for broadcast standards, said the revised message appears to meet the network's objections to the original one. It still must be reviewed, he added, but that should be finished in "a matter of days or weeks."
If the announcement passes muster, he said, "I would expect it to go on, certainly."
"We know they're (ACOG) changing the spot for NBC, and if the deletion (of the disputed line) is acceptable to us, we'd be very happy to carry those messages," CBS' Schweitzer said.
Jeff Tolvin, an ABC spokesman, said the network would have to review the new announcement before commenting on it.
"We haven't gone to CBS or ABC yet, but we certainly will," Lebow said.
He said that ACOG, which claims 25,000 members, will hold a press conference in New York on Wednesday to screen its revised announcement. NBC executives will also be there, he said.