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ABC Censors Doctor's Comments on 'Home' Show

March 19, 1994|JUDITH MICHAELSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A pediatrician who is a consultant to ABC's "Home" show expressed dismay this week after learning that some of his comments about the influence of alcohol ads on television were cut from the West Coast broadcast.

Dr. Jay Gordon, who practices in Santa Monica and Malibu, called it "a chicken-doo thing to do," suggesting that the network was "influenced by the fact that these are large advertisers."

"Children think that it is cool to drink . . . " Gordon said on the March 9 installment of "Home." "When you have cartoon characters and animated beer bottles, you are advertising to children. I don't want to seem like I'm an un-fun guy because I oppose the advertising of cancer-causing and disease-causing and death-causing drugs to children , but I don't think that this should be done."

The words in italics were heard live on the East Coast and in the Midwest, but were deleted when the show was broadcast on tape later on the West Coast. Viewers here saw his lips move but heard nothing.

Gordon, who didn't learn of the deleted words until a reporter asked him about the incident Thursday, at first responded facetiously: "Gosh, I wonder what they objected to. They don't realize that these drugs cause disease and death, for heaven's sake? I certainly hope it wasn't the fact that beer manufacturers spend tens of millions of dollars on ABC that influenced the decision."

A spokesman for ABC said: "This ("Home") show cannot be used as a platform for family members (meaning employees) to air their personal views. We felt his comments were inappropriate and therefore removed them."

He said the decision to cut them was made by Susan Futterman, ABC's director of standards and practices. The network declined to make her available for comment.

Gordon's remarks on "Home" came during a panel discussion with Lawrence Wallack, a professor of public health at UC Berkeley, and Hal Shoup, executive vice president of the American Assn. of Advertising Agencies. Wallack is co-author of a study showing that ads that portray "alcohol being part of the good life" influence youngsters' later use; Shoup maintained that it is a First Amendment right to advertise a legal product and that ads have "no relationship whatsoever" on children's future drinking habits.

"Home" executive producer Woody Fraser said Friday that he had objected to the order to cut Gordon's words from the tape but was overruled. He said he occasionally crosses swords with Futterman's department over material on the program; indeed, Gordon had been bleeped a few weeks earlier in a discussion of cigarette advertising.

"Of course, Susan Futterman never says to you directly it has anything to do with potential sponsor problems," Fraser said, "but the 'Home' show is considered to be an advertiser-friendly show. So we sell a lot of spots. We make a lot of money for the network."

At the end of the March 9 program, "Home" host Gary Collins told viewers: "ABC has asked that we read the following statement, and that is, 'The network has clear guidelines and restrictions about when beer and wine commercials can be aired so as not to encourage the use of such products in our young audiences. They also will not run commercials that portray or encourage the use of those products by young people who have not reached, or appear not to have reached, legal drinking age."

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