NEW YORK — A new Louis Harris poll may show that three out of five U.S. adults think TV stations should be allowed to air contraceptive advertising, but officials at ABC, CBS and NBC reiterated Thursday that their networks won't accept such ads for broadcast.
The networks maintain that affiliates and network-owned stations should make their own decisions on airing contraceptive ads or commercials that promote condom use for the prevention of such diseases as AIDS.
ABC, CBS and NBC restated their positions in response to assertions Wednesday by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America--which commissioned the Harris survey--that the networks are "completely out of step with the great majority of the American people" on the matter of contraceptive advertising.
Speaking for CBS but expressing a view echoed by NBC and ABC, George Dessart, CBS vice president for program practices, said that "we serve as surrogates for more than 200 stations, and they represent very diverse communities throughout the country, with very different public health concerns and very different community mores.
"We think it is essentially a local matter," he added. "We have discussed the matter with our affiliates, and their position (on condom ads) is all over the map. Some say they won't take them if offered locally.
"Others say not only will they not take them locally, they'll block out any (condom) commercials that would appear on the network."
ABC spokesman Tom Mackin also said that it is for local stations, not his network, to decide on airing such commercials, noting that "some people may find them inappropriate or offensive" and that the matter "involves complex moral, religious and ethical issues."
"We're absolutely following the affiliates' wishes on this one," said McClain Ramsey, NBC vice president for corporate relations. "We leave it (decisions regarding condom advertising) completely up to the individual stations."
The three networks, which own a total of 19 TV stations and serve more than 600 affiliates, recently agreed to accept and air anti-AIDS public service announcements. At the time they announced acceptance of those announcements, they said they wouldn't accept condom ads--but that the stations they own could decide locally whether to accept such advertising.
According to Dessart, three of four CBS-owned TV stations--WCBS here, KCBS in Los Angeles and WCAU in Philadelphia--are accepting such commercials, while WBBM-TV in Chicago is not.
Only two of five NBC-owned TV stations--WNBC here and KNBC in Burbank--are accepting condom commercials, while KABC-TV in Los Angeles is the only one of the eight ABC-owned stations to do that, according to officials for the two networks.