After being contacted by an angry CBS network whose legal counsel had vowed to take "all action necessary" to protect the title of its reality-based fall series "Rescue 911," the producer of a similar, locally produced show said Wednesday that he will change the name of his "911" series to "On Scene."
CBS would not comment, however, on whether it would consider the name change an acceptable solution. Both shows deal with actual 911 emergency calls and the life-saving efforts of paramedics, firefighters and other rescue teams.
"911," which is scheduled to premiere at 5 p.m. Sunday on KABC-TV Channel 7, will maintain that title for its first three episodes, which are already completed, producer Dave Forman told The Times. KABC-TV executives could not be reached for comment.
Deborah Barak, broadcast counsel for CBS, said Wednesday that she was in negotiations with Forman and KABC-TV and that the network would seek injunctive relief against the use of the "911" title if an amicable solution were not reached.
"We have all rights in that ('911') name right now and anyone that would be using that would be violating our rights," Barak said. "We will work (to stop) a competitive use of our title or a similar title on that program. We believe there isn't enough of a distinction (between) the ('911' and 'Rescue 911') titles for viewers to distinguish between them."
"Rescue 911" was the idea of CBS Entertainment President Kim LeMasters and work on the program was begun last January, according to the network. Two "Rescue 911" specials were aired last spring and CBS in May ordered weekly episodes for the fall, scheduling the series on Tuesday nights.
Barak noted that although "Rescue 911" is not slated to air until September, because of promotions for the two specials and production work that already has been completed, CBS has already put "quite a bit of expense" into that name.
Forman said he had the idea for his "911" program about two years ago and independently started to work on it then. KABC-TV said it had been negotiating with Forman for about two months, and has purchased 13 episodes. After that, the producer said, he will consider syndicating the series nationally.
KABC has done no promotion for the show other than sending a press release to various publications for their TV listings, according to the programming department. Barak said CBS was unaware of the program until The Times called to inquire about it.
While Arnold Shapiro, executive producer of "Rescue 911," refused to comment on the possible conflict between the names of the two shows, Forman had said Tuesday that there was no conflict because "the shows are substantially different and serve a different function."
On Wednesday, however, Forman said he had heard from CBS and agreed there was "a potential for confusion" and therefore would be happier with the new name, "On Scene." ("On Scene" is what emergency personnel radio back to their home base when they reach the emergency site, Forman said.)
Forman, whose program will have more than half of its footage shot in Southern California area, said his series is more of a reality show than "Rescue 911" because it uses only actual footage from ride-alongs with rescue teams, while the network program uses dramatizations and re-enactments.
"(The network show) is a good show. It's just different from us," Forman said. "To recreate reality is really just a different form of drama--it isn't really reality."
Shapiro, however, said that his show uses both re-creations and actual footage.
For some segments, Shapiro said, "Rescue 911" uses existing news footage of the incident, interviews with people involved and re-creations. While the actual rescuers re-enact their roles, Shapiro said, actors or stunt people are used in the re-creations because it is "generally too dangerous" or too traumatizing for a victim to relive an incident where he nearly lost his life.
Other segments, Shapiro said, take what he called the documentary approach.
"That's where we actually go out with the rescue units and whatever happens, we're on the scene," Shapiro said. "We follow through on what happens--we focus on both the rescuers and the victims."
But whereas Shapiro's one-hour show will tell viewers how the victim came out and sometimes even visit with that person once fully recovered, Forman's half-hour show ends once the emergency rescuers work is done.
"The focus is on the work the paramedics or flight nurses are doing," Forman said. "The rescue person's job is done when they get the person to the hospital, so we leave the viewer the same way it's left for this person. There's really no reason for a summation."