BROADCASTERS BROOD OVER VIOLENCE ISSUE AT NATPE CONVENTION

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MIAMI BEACH, Fla.-Broadcasters were greeted with a double whammy at the National Association of Television Program Executives show last week.

Violence in children's TV programming, an issue NATPE officials hoped would die down after President Clinton pulled out as keynote speaker to work on his State of the Union address, was clearly top-of-mind with local broadcasters at the gathering to buy programming for their stations.

The week started with warnings from Federal Communications Commission Chairman Reed Hundt, who spoke in Miami to the Association of Independent Television Stations. He said if broadcasters don't regulate themselves and Congress is forced to come up with TV violence guidelines, his office will "do a bang-up job seeing that regulations hold up in court."

Then, after President Clinton devoted a great portion of his State of the union speech to violence in society, local broadcasters wondered about the safety of buying rights to old, popular cartoons to run in daytime strips. Some special interest groups consider cartoons as violent as, or more than, some prime-time shows.

"Will advertisers be more sensitive than ever?" asked one broadcaster from Lexington, Ky.

Another important issue broadcasters faced at the convention was the growing realization that telephone companies will become competitors for both advertising and programming.

Time Warner Chairman-CEO Gerald Levin told local broadcasters their greatest asset is their "brand." He said it's time those brands be built up and promoted.

"As consumers become accustomed to using the television for viewing entertainment as well as for specific cultural events, news-on-demand and individual educational software, the hunger for quality will rise dramatically," he said."Content will be king."

Besides TV violence and interactivity, infomercials were a hot topic.

New to this year's convention was the Infomercial Pavilion, sponsored by NATPE International and the National Infomercial Marketing Association. The pavilion's presence-and $900 million in infomercial business and $240 million in revenue TV stations received last year in media buys-highlighted the industry's emerging role.

With programming vital to the information superhighway, consumers will be increasingly interested in "information-based programming," said Gregory Lerman, ceo with USA Direct, Minnetonka, Minn., an exhibitor that produces infomercials for Jake "Body by Jake" Steinfeld and Susan "Stop the Insanity" Powter.

"NATPE is not interested in seeing snake oil salesmen here," Mr. Lerman said. "They're interested in seeing quality programming that also entertains, advertises and sells."

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