Mexican broadcasters kill popular crime news programs

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MEXICO CITY -- TV Azteca has unexpectedly announced that it is pulling its popular tabloid news program "Ciudad Desnuda" ("Naked City") off the air as of November 14. "Ciudad Desnuda" borrowed its format and style from similar police and crime shows in the U.S., like "Cops", and was one of TV Azteca's top-rated shows.

Rival Televisa is following TV Azteca's lead and is pulling its own tabloid news show off the air as of Nov. 21. Anchor Jacobo Zabludovsy announced during a nightly news that broadcast of "Fuera de la Ley" ("Outside the Law") would end Nov. 21.

TV Azteca says the decision was made partly in response to the concerns of "some commentators, intellectuals, legislators and political figures regarding the handling of violence in the media." Government officials and other political leaders recently have strongly criticized broadcasters for graphic and sensationalistic crime coverage. They claim such programs promote more crime. Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo applauded the move by both broadcasters to axe the programs.

"Despite the success of the broadcast and its transcendent work in informing viewers of the reality that exists in our city via the telling of true stories, TV Azteca has decided to end the transmission," the country's No. 2 broadcaster said.

Azteca praised its program for pioneering crime coverage, such as a recent expose of car theft that showed police indifference, if not collusion. After that report aired, two Azteca reporters were temporarily kidnapped and roughed up by men alleged to be police.

Azteca News Director Sergio Sarmiento told a news conference that the decision to ax this show does not mean the news department will pull back from its aggressive coverage of crime and police issues. Azteca's news shows tend to lead the ratings in the war with Televisa and are perceived by many viewers to be more objective.

Zabludovsy said "Outside the Law'' did not fit in with Televisa's news philosophy. Televisa has not yet issued a formal statement.

Copyright November 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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