A San Francisco television station will begin airing commercials for prophylactics within two weeks and contribute revenues from the controversial ads to AIDS research, officials of NBC-affiliated KRON-TV said Friday.
The station's move is believed to be a first among TV broadcasters serving major cities.
The three major networks and most local stations have repeatedly turned down condom makers' efforts to buy commercial time as well as requests for public service time from public health organizations. Cable-TV networks have run prophylactic ads, however.
"Our primary interest here is public health," said James H. Smith, vice president and general manager of the San Francisco station. "AIDS is a serious health hazard of specific concern to this market. We believe it is the responsibility of the media to focus attention on this important issue."
The station said it will accept the ads on a six-month trial basis. The station said it would also require matching contributions from firms buying commercial time.
Francis A. Martin, president of the station's parent company, Chronicle Broadcasting of San Francisco Inc., said the ads must pass "continuity standards" and be in good taste. He also said the station would not air the ads "in or around programming targeted to children."
Susan Kleinman, a spokeswoman form New York-based Carter-Wallace Inc., maker of the Trojan line of male contraceptives, called the KRON decision "fantastic."
"We're very glad that advertising will be accepted," Kleinman said Friday, insisting that "there's no better way than television to educate" the public about the prevention of acquired immune deficiency syndrome or other sexually transmitted diseases.
Kleinman also said that Carter-Wallace had already sent videotapes of commercials to KRON-TV and planned to buy time on the station.
As recently as last month, all three major TV networks said they had no plans to lift their longstanding bans on contraceptive advertising after Planned Parenthood launched its own national advertising campaign to draw attention to the issue.
Herb Gunther, executive director of San Francisco's Public Media Center, which prepared the Planned Parenthood campaign, said KRON-TV's announcement was a move in the right direction.
"It's good to see an NBC affiliate take the first step," Gunther said. "It's a bit like an ostrich lifting its head out of the sand."