Peder Nelson, [email protected]
On Sunday, June 20, television viewers across the country watched an NBC special report, "Drug Bust: The Longest War." The program, hosted by Geraldo Rivera, highlighted many of the failings of current US drug policy. But viewers of KTVB-TV in Boise, Idaho saw a speech by US Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue promoting drug testing in the workplace instead. The program was aired as part of "Enough is Enough," an anti-drug campaign the station is sponsoring.
DRCNet learned of the preempting when subscribers in Boise wrote us to complain. Local resident Russ Belville wrote that he had spoken earlier with reporters from the station who were concerned that KTVB's involvement with the campaign could cause a "conflict of interest" for the newsroom. "Seems to me there's no conflict at KTVB's newsroom at all," Belville wrote this week. "If it doesn't follow the 'Enough is Enough' agenda, it doesn't get aired on KTVB -- even if it is a special report from one of their parent network's news department."
Doug Armstrong of KTVB-TV told the Week Online that the station preempted the NBC show because it needed a primetime run for the final episode of "Incredible Idaho," a local nature program. He added that the station had a previous commitment to air the Donohue's speech.
John Brine, a spokesman for NBC, said that while the Idaho station's choice to replace the Geraldo special with a pro-drug war speech was "interesting," there was nothing unusual about an affiliate choosing not to air it. "The show was picked up throughout the nation and broadcast at about the same rate as other shows," he said. Local stations generally have the option of preempting network programs for local shows when they have other obligations or needs.
A summary and excerpts from Drug Bust can be read online at http://www.msnbc.com/news/281474.asp. Enough is Enough has a web site at http://www.ktvb.com/program/enough.html.