When CE News Magazine premiered on PBS earlier this season, local viewers could choose between watching it Saturdays at 2:30 p.m. on Ch. 11 or at 6:30 p.m. on Ch. 7.
For the past several weeks, however, those options have been reduced as KBYU (Ch. 11) has decided to cancel the weekly program that is a half-hour version of "60 Minutes" featuring teenage reporters."We were very disappointed in the show," said KBYU programmer BaBette A. Davidson. "When we first saw it we were excited. We thought it would be a fun, challenging program for young people. But it turned into a nightmare of sensational journalism."
For KBYU, the nightmare started when "CE News Magazine" did a roundtable discussion of teenage sexuality. "The show had all these 13-15-year-olds talking about how they lost their virginity, and how it was no big deal," Davidson said. "There was no one there to talk about the other side of the issue - no one to say `Why not wait?' There wasn't even any discussion of contraception or AIDS - not even a mention of safe or responsible sex.
"It was irresponsible journalism," Davidson continued. "It played like one of those voyeuristic ratings hype things."
But it was a later installment on abortion that finally convinced KBYU officials to pull "CE News Magazine" off their air. "Their reporter was sitting there watching the abortion procedure," Davidson recalled. "That's when I said, `There's absolutely nothing valuable here, and I don't want to have anything to do with it anymore."'
KUED officials see the program in a different light.
"I think it's an excellent addition to the PBS schedule," said station manager Fred Esplin. "They've had some very good reports."
So does that mean he is comfortable with the "CE" episodes on teen sex and abortion?
"There are often things on KUED that I don't agree with personally or that I don't want my children to watch," Esplin said, hedging just a little. "But our position is that it is the role of a public television station to provide a forum for a diversity of opinion and an exchange of ideas."
Davidson agrees with that notion. "But opinions and ideas must be expressed fairly and responsibly," she said. "What `CE' is doing just isn't responsible.
"It's not the subject matter that bothers me," Davidson continued. "We carried a discussion of teen sex on `The Power of Choice,' and we've aired several programs about AIDS. But they were done in a responsible manner and without the sensationalism we're seeing on `CE."'
Esplin acknowledged that "the professionalism and balance isn't always there" in "CE." But, he said, "that's part of the risk of a free press. And the solution is not to restrict access - the solution is to increase access so that more information can come out. That's why I disagree with any attempt to censor material. If you really believe in encouraging a free flow of ideas you've got to open the faucet, not close it."
Still, Esplin said he doesn't fault KBYU for their decision to cancel "CE News Magazine."
"I recognize that their situation is much different from ours," he said, referring to Ch. 11's ownership, the LDS Church, which would doubtless feel uncomfortable with "CE's" recent approach to sexuality and abortion. "I guess this is just another example of why it's good to have two public television stations in the market."
- IT'S OFFICIAL. Finally. The long-rumored defection of Karen Carns from KTVX is set. Sometime in the next month she'll sign off for the last time on Ch. 4 and head south - to CBS affiliate KTSP in Phoenix.
The move comes as no surprise to local television industry insiders, who have been hearing rumblings about her cool relationship with co-anchor Phil Riesen and her dissatisfaction with third-rated KTVX News for almost as long as she's been here. When the Phoenix station showed interest in her, most observers figured KTVX would make her stay through the November ratings period and then let her go even though she is contracted to Ch. 4 through next spring.
But if she thinks she is moving into a better station situation in Arizona on her way up the broadcasting ladder, she may want to think twice. Sources there indicate that KTSP has been on a ratings slide of its own lately and that the management situation has been unstable. And now Electronic Media is reporting that CBS is negotiating to buy independent station KPHO, which would leave KTSP without a network affiliation. That might mean the end of their news operation - and make working in little old Salt Lake City look pretty appealing to Carns.