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TV Note: 4/20/02

Saturday, April 20, 2002

Semantic shuffle

In the wake of White House spokesman Ari Fleischer renaming Middle East suicide bombers as "homicide bombers," which was soon adopted by Fox News Channel, Pittsburgh's WTAE has also switched to the new nomenclature. Mostly.

News director Bob Longo said "suicide bomber" will remain in network packages received via satellite, but anything written locally will use the term "homicide bomber," which he believes is "more timely, relevant and accurate."

Longo said with so many bombings in such a short period of time, all designed to kill people, he felt it was a change worth noting. He acknowledged "homicide bomber" could be viewed as a pro-Israel political statement, but said "suicide bomber" could be interpreted as the opposite.

"We're by no means making a political statement," Longo said. "We're making a more accurate representation of what's happening. These people aren't strapping explosives to their body in the privacy of their own home, they're doing it in densely populated settings with the intent to murder and maim."

Representatives of KDKA, WPGH and WPXI said their stations will stick with "suicide bomber."

"If I was thinking of changing to 'homicide bomber,' I'd be inclined to go with just 'bomber.' 'Homicide bomber' seems redundant," said WPXI news director Pat Maday. "I'm certainly mindful of why some people prefer that term. We can't forget in the use of 'suicide bomber' that this person who is committing suicide is often killing a great many people in the process."

Maday said a change in terminology could confuse some viewers.

"People know what 'suicide bomber' means in the context of this stuff. To begin to change terms can very easily confuse a story that's already difficult for people to understand beyond the violence."

(Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor)

AT&T drops channels

Three digital cable channels -- Ovation, Goodlife TV and CNNSI -- will disappear from AT&T Broadband's lineup May 15.

CNNSI will go dark that day and the other two didn't generate much interest among subscribers, according to a company spokesman. Replacement channels will be announced soon.

(R.O.)

Candidates debate

WPXI and WJAC in Johnstown will broadcast a live debate between Democratic gubernatorial candidates Bob Casey Jr. and Ed Rendell at 11 a.m. tomorrow. WPXI anchor David Johnson will be the moderator. It also will air live on C-SPAN.

PCNC will rebroadcast the hour-long debate at 4 and 9 p.m. tomorrow. C-SPAN repeats it at 6:30 and 9:30 p.m.

(R.O.)

WTAE adds service for blind

Channel 4 has installed equipment to pass through video description audio service for the sight-impaired on certain programs.

With a second audio program-capable TV or VCR, viewers can receive video description of movies broadcast by ABC. Upcoming movies with video description include "Superfire" (9 tonight), "Armageddon" (April 27), "The Sixth Sense" (May 4), "Stuart Little" (May 5) and "Notting Hill" (May 11).

(R.O.)

WPTT picks up Drudge

WPTT-AM (1360) is picking up Matt Drudge's radio talk show. The "Drudge Report" Web site author/TV talk host now hosts a weekly political news and gossip radio talk show, which Drudge describes in these words: "Wherever the stink is, we'll try to zero in on it."

Starting this weekend, "The Matt Drudge Show" airs on WPTT from 10 p.m. to midnight Sundays.

(Adrian McCoy, Post-Gazette Staff Writer)

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