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‘BALANCE PROBLEM’ ON ‘DONAHUE’

Times Staff Writer

A “Donahue” show featuring California Supreme Court Chief Justice Rose Bird as guest is not scheduled to be broadcast in Los Angeles today, KNBC Channel 4 said Thursday, because the station feels it unfairly gives her a forum just four days before voters go to the polls to decide whether she should remain in office.

A spokesman for Bird said that efforts were being made Thursday afternoon to get KNBC to change its mind, but the station had not done so by press time.

KNBC General Manager John Rohrbeck said through a spokeswoman that he felt airing the syndicated program would create a “balance problem” in Channel 4’s efforts to cover evenhandedly her campaign against critics who contend that her performance on the high court does not merit retention.

A spokeswoman for “Donahue” said that KNBC was the only one of its stations in California that had elected not to broadcast the program. Bird was scheduled to tape the show with Phil Donahue in New York this morning.

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In its place at 3 p.m. today, KNBC planned to run another “Donahue” show featuring women from 7-Eleven stores who posed for Playboy magazine.

Rohrbeck said that he made his decision based on “having received no assurance (from ‘Donahue’) that the show would be balanced, because there was no guest to represent the other side.”

“We feel that we will be presenting a fair program,” “Donahue” producer Janet Harrell responded. “She (Bird) is not running against a candidate; she’s running against an issue. That’s what we are going to be exploring.”

A Channel 4 spokeswoman said that KNBC has tried in its programming to give the pro- and anti-Bird forces equal amounts of time to make their case and that her appearance on “Donahue” “would put us way over” on the pro side.

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She said that the station’s balance figures did not include advertising time purchased by either side for campaign commercials.

Federal guidelines require that stations be fair in their overall coverage of controversial subjects, but they do not require that every program be balanced.

Janet May, traffic manager and program coordinator at KESQ-TV in Palm Springs, said her station planned to carry the “Donahue” show with Bird. “I don’t foresee a problem,” she said.

KCST-TV in San Diego also planned to broadcast the Bird interview, General Manager Bill Fox said. He added that his staff was trying to put together a local telecast to follow “Donahue” that would feature a Bird critic responding to the “Donahue” show and fielding phone calls from viewers.

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Anyone with a TV set and a telephone can play TV producer Nov. 14, when viewers will select which of two possible endings to an episode of NBC’s “The A-Team” will air that night.

Fifteen minutes before the show’s end, Robert Vaughn, as Gen. Hunt Stockwell, will announce special 900 numbers viewers can call to vote on whether wanted criminal A. J. Bancroft (Jeff Corey) is the long-lost father of Templeton “Faceman” Peck (Dirk Benedict). There’s a 50-cent surcharge for each call.

NBC previously has helped out the telephone company with similar schemes on “Hill Street Blues,” for which viewers got to pick which “classic” episode would air, and “Friday Night Videos.”

The “Wall Street Journal Report on Television” will go international early next year, broadcasting via satellite to Europe and Asia on the Business Television Network. Ernest Samuel, chairman of Samuel Broadcating Corp. which distributes the program, said Thursday that with the expansion, “we are reaching our goal of disseminating important business news throughout the world.”

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