Friday, August 8, 2003

WLWT to dump Springer in '04

Ch. 64 will air it after that

By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer

After 21 years, WLWT-TV is severing its relationship with Jerry Springer.

Channel 5 - the station that launched Springer's TV news career in 1982 and started his talk show in 1991 - will drop the Jerry Springer Show a year from now when its three-year contract runs out.

"Springer is a product that is not in line with the image that this television station wants to put forth in the community," says David Rosch, Channel 5 program director.

WSTR-TV (Channel 64) has bought Springer for fall 2004.

Channel 5 hired Springer as a nightly commentator in the fall of 1982 after he failed to win the Democratic nomination for governor. In 1984, he was given the dual role as commentator and 11 p.m. news co-anchor. The Norma Rashid-Springer team was No. 1 in the ratings from 1987 to 1992.

Channel 5 parlayed his popularity into a daytime talk show that was broadcast from here during its first season (1991-'92), while he remained a newscaster. When the talk show moved to Chicago in 1992, Springer commuted daily so he could still anchor the news and read a nightly commentary. He resigned in 1993, after Channel 5's late news ratings tumbled from first to third.

Once he was free from his news duties, Springer's Chicago-based shows became more salacious and violent - and a problem for stations. Channel 5 periodically would air a rerun when a Springer talk show topic sounded too salacious. For example, Channel 5 has never broadcast Springer's "I Married a Horse" show.

Springer has generated more complaints "by far" than any other show on Channel 5, Rosch says.

"We seldom get a call of complaint about any other show but Springer," Rosch says. "We still get about a half-dozen complaints every week - and in the summer we get more, when kids are home during the day."

Universal Domestic Television has sold Springer and the Maury Povich Show, now airing on WXIX-TV (Channel 19), to Channel 64 for the 2004-'05 season, says Merry Ewing, Channel 64 general manager.

Springer explained Thursday that his contract to do the show - which expires next summer - is separate from Universal's multi-year deals to carry his show. His contract allows Universal "to pick up an option every year, as long as I want to do it. And I have a window to get out every year," he says.

Springer cited his talk show obligation when he announced Wednesday that he would not seek the U.S. Senate seat next year.

"What I fully understand is that I could be successful in politics, but I can't be doing the show," he says. "Whenever I decide there's something else I'm going to do, I'll announce it after I'm finished totally with the show."

Springer, 59, says he expects to continue the show through the summer of 2005.

"If I decide I want to get back into politics, obviously '06 is a possibility, because every political office is up in '06," he says.

So he's not interested in Cincinnati's 2005 elections? "You're thinking I might run for mayor? I'm not," Springer says.

After Springer announced he would not re-enter politics, Universal Television President Steven Rosenberg said: "We have told Jerry from the beginning that we would support whatever decision he made, but obviously we are very pleased that he will continue to host the Jerry Springer Show.

"Jerry has often downplayed his role in the success of the program, but we know different. It has been a top 5 talk show, and a top 30 syndicated series, for six straight seasons," Rosenberg says.

Springer, the first talk show to beat Oprah Winfrey, has been among the top five syndicated talk shows for six years, according to Universal Television. But in Cincinnati, Springer was third at 11 a.m. this year behind The Price is Right and The View.

"There was a time when (Springer) was a good product. It was launched by the company (Multimedia) that used to own this station," Rosch says. "It used to be a legitimate talk show, but over time it turned into a circus."


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