Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on August 24, 1975 · Page 117
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 117

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, August 24, 1975
Page 117
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Page 117 article text (OCR)

Television' broadens public understanding By Jay Skarimtt Kver get the feeling nobody really pays attention when you write or telephone your local station to complain or cheer about something you've seen oh television. Well, meet Mike Shapiro. He's the man to whom many Dallas viewers direct their TV cheers and jeers. He pays very close attention to them. He has to. They're part of his weekly TV show. He's the originator and host of WKAA-TV's "Inside Television," where he fields viewer gripes, discusses such things as ratings, and in general tries to explain how television works. His show began in 1961 as a 15-minute program. It had a title many telephone operators at. TV stations would know as a frequent viewer request. -- "Let Me Speak 10 the Manager." The main reason he started it. he says, was a remark by then-Federal Communications Commission Chairman Newton Minow. Something about television being "a vast wasteland." "I felt he was condemning all of the industry and I didn't think the. charge .was justifiable," Shapiro said. "1 thought that maybe a let- Icrs-tihthe^cdilorlhing might work on television." It did. Six weeks later, he expanded the show to its current M-minulc format and now includes 11 in quickie TV trivia quizzes, interviews with top broadcast figures. He also gives inside-TV reports usually see'n only in trade magazines like "Variety." The e x p a n s i o n , he says. was."basically because of what I think is the audience's unending appetite to know more about TV because they spend so darn much time watching it." Shapiro, a 52-year-old Duluth. Minn., native who settled in Texas after a World War II stint as a glider pilot, isn't exactly what you'd call a TV version of the ombudsman many newspapers have. lie's the boss, the president of the Bclos Broadcasting Corp., which owns WFAA-TV. an ABC affiliate, and KFDM-TV. a CBS affiliate in Beaumont. Tex., which began carrying his show last January. lie also is a former chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters TV code board, as well as a former chairman of ABC-TVs affiliates' board. It gives him a certain amount-of industry and executive suite expertise, even though his only on-air ex- IK-rience prior lo "Inside Television" was as a newscaster on two small radio stations. Shapiro, whose program appeared on Sunday nights in prime time last season lakes 13 weeks off each summer, tapes the show Thursday mornings ai WFAA in Dallas. had an A.C. Nielsen expert. Carl Weiler. on Ihe show to explain Ihe method of rating a national show. On the next "Inside Television," Shapiro read a letter from an unconvinced viewer who said: "Come on. Mr. Weiler, just what is a systematic scientific random sample? "How can something be both symstematic and random? That's like saying "1 have a perfectly round square.' " On the same show. Shapiro himself had something lo say about a recent Emmy Awards program for nightlime lelevision. A viewer asked him the size of the TV audience for the Emmy bash. "Well." Shapiro replied, "the show was a bust. But the audience didn't know il and they were hoping it would get betler. I guess, and stayed with it until the very end. It got a 42 per cent share of audience on CBS." Shapiro, who estimates thai perhaps only 12 stalions around Ihe na- lion run programs akin lo his, says he Ihinks Ihere should be more of them. To thai end. he wrote a 17-page booklet, called "Let Me Speak to the Manager." which explains what his program is all about and what formal Ihey might use for one of their own. He offered it free to sla- lion managers a few years ago and 260 wrote in for copies. He says it's still available on request. The main virtue of a show like "Inside Television," he says^r. that it helps broaden the public t,·· understanding of television and the problems of Ihe medium. Case in point: "Hot L Baltimore," a now-defunct ABC series roundly criticized last season because its cast of characters included prostitutes and homosexuals. "You get six letters saying, 'We enjoyed the show.' " Shapiro said. "Then another six that say, 'How dare you put thai filth on for my kids to see!' "And you read bolh sides of the question on Ihe air. And Ihe guy sitting al home, drinking his beer, is saying. 'Whal's lhal poor s.o.b. supposed lo do?" "It lells the people that everybody doesn't think the way they do. And that's the position it puts the station in. And that's why I think more stations ought to do it." SWIMMING POOLS--1975 CLEARANCE SALE! "Inside Television" host Mike Shapiro. I'ratt. WFAA's program director, who sits with his back to the camera. He says he covers "all stations, all networks" in his discussion of programs, ratings and all that, and estimates he gets 200-300 letters a week in quiet times; far more during conlroversies. lie sits behind a desk in a small studio and is fed viewer gripes, dicers and questions by. James SHOW TIME; August 24, 1975 "1 try to take them into the decision process of putting programs on. taking them off, commercials, bad-taste programming, the 'family' hour, everything in television," he says. What is the major viewer gripe? "I would say program cancellations," he said. "The minute the new network schedules are released. .1 show them side by side so viewers can see what the schedule, will look like in September. -And thal's when il really hils I h c f a n a n d mail comes in saying ·Whaddya mean you're canceling ·dunsmoke?'" Despite his. explanations of the various factors that cause a show's demise, he says, "When you list all of. them, they say. Those are all of my favorites. You must be nuts.' "So then we talk about ratings and I bring a raling guy on. I've had A.C. Nielsen people on lo explain how ratings are taken, what are the chances of gelling a Nielsen dairy, and how many people a viewer represents. Then we go into the demographics, of an audience. "Like, why were Lawrence Welk and Kd'Suliivan.canceled by the networks? I say. because the audience they were reaching basically were 50 years old and older." He referred to the fact that many advertisers feel the prime audience, the one with the most money to spend, is in the 18-to-49 age bracket. . . "Alter you say thai," Shapiro said, "then you starl gelling mail 1 that says. 'Well, I'm 55 years old and by God, I've gol money lo spend!' " t- Somelimes the explanations work, sometimes not. As witness a May program, in which Shapiro MI. '.-I;! 1 .'"''i-' ii'/lft; hh^!V, ^iMliii(j:ii.i Iii'' - ABOVE GROUND (Do-it-yourj*lf) COMPLETE EASY TO FOLLOW IHSnUCTION! WAS """" 33 FT. X18 FT. X 7 FT. 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