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Controversial Public TV Show Canceled

October 09, 1986|DAN MORAIN | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — A Bay Area public television station has canceled a controversial financial news show that drew criticism from some public TV executives and law enforcement officials.

Public Broadcasting System affiliate KCSM, licensed to College of San Mateo 20 miles south of here, ceased airing "Stock Market Today" last Wednesday, the day after a Times article described the unique arrangement that KCSM used to air the show.

"Oh, God no, heavens no," KCSM General Manager Michael Kimball said Tuesday, emphasizing the move to cancel the show had nothing to do with the article. He did describe the timing of the cancellation as "fascinating."

In airing the five-day-a-week program for the past six years, KCSM allowed a so-called underwriter, the investment firm of Financial Horizons, to charge investment advisers $30 a minute to appear in the talk-show format.

The "guests" in turn touted their various offerings in eight-minute segments. Some of the investments included such speculative deals as precious metals options and tax shelters in greenhouses and solar energy.

PBS has a policy against its affiliates selling air time and against underwriters from dictating content of its programs. Guests on shows such as PBS' "Wall Street Week" do not pay the station to appear and do not pitch specific investments that they sell.

"Stock Market Today" raised concern among some law enforcement authorities, who noted that owners of at least two companies that had salesmen on the show are now in prison because of their financial dealings. Other "guests" have been sued or had other action taken against them by the state Department of Corporations or by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Kimball said the contract with Financial Horizons had been "under review" for "some time," although he did not mention that in earlier interviews with The Times.

Initially, Kimball said the money paid by Financial Horizons to KCSM was important to the station, representing about 9% of the station's budget. However, in explaining the cancellation Tuesday, he said that the station did "an analysis that showed we were't making money on it."

In the earlier interview, Kimball also said he believed the show was in the "public interest." On Tuesday, he said he had decided that the station would devote the two-hour time slot to televised college courses.

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