Thursday, September 21, 2000

Court TV gives in to murder victims' families' plea

        Parents of Murdered Children, the Cincinnati-based national support group, is claiming victory over Court TV, which has pulled its controversial murderers' Confessions show.

        Court TV canceled the show this week after two telecasts (10 p.m. Sunday) in response to passionate e-mails from murder victims' family members, says Court TV Chairman Henry Schleiff.

        The protest was launched Sept. 11, the morning after the premiere, by Nancy Ruhe-Munch, executive director of the nonprofit group founded here in 1978. The organization has 100,000 members.

        The basic cable channel and Confessions sponsors have received “hundreds of e-mails from victims' families asking, "How can you make money off our loved one's murder?' ” Ms. Ruhe-Munch says.

        Confessions featured criminals' detailed videotaped confessions from law enforcement archives across the country. The Sept. 10 premiere included a man decribing how he killed his girlfriend, dismembered her body and boiled her head on the stove.

        “I think the press attention to some extent was dissipating and I think the complaints, the arguments, the debate back and forth was clearly dying down,” Mr. Schleiff told the New York Post.

        “What was not dying down, though, was the feeling on the part of crime-victim family members who felt this brought back tough memories,” he said.

        Court TV also lost four Confessions sponsors — two last week and two this week — after hearing from Parents of Murdered Children members, says Ms. Ruhe-Munch, executive director here since 1985.

        “I think the real reason was that sponsors pulled out, and they knew that we would not quit (our protest),” Ms. Ruhe-Munch says.

        Before the premiere, she had asked Mr. Schleiff to include a five-minute segment about the murder victim with each televised confession. He refused, she says.

        “The murderers always get their 15 minutes of fame, but the victim remains invisible,” she says.

        Often police and prosecutor don't tell family members the brutal details of a loved one's death to spare them additional pain. “So this (show) was re-victimizing everyone out there,” she says.

        “To stop violence in this country, you need to have rage — and to have murderers confessing on TV desensitizes everyone to it,” she says. “And we thought this was a "how-to' primer on murder for children.”

        In a Court TV statement, Mr. Schleiff said he was concerned that all the attention to the weekly half-hour show “might overshadow some of the other fine programming on our network.”

        Confessions has “provided a unique look inside the criminal mind,” he said. “On the other hand, a number of valid concerns and complaints have been raised by a portion of our audience regarding the show. In that regard, Court TV's goal is always to inform or to entertain but, certainly, never to knowingly offend.”

        Parents of Murdered Children was founded in 1978 by the Rev. Robert and Charlotte Hullinger after their daughter, Lisa, was murdered in Germany that year.

        In 1993, the organization started its “Murder is Not Entertainment” program. Ms. Ruhe-Munch says she offers a free presentation to Tristate schools and PTOs called “Deadly Consequences,” about violent toys, games, computer games “and how they influence how a child is raised.” (Information: 721-5683).

        Ms. Ruhe-Munch says she's pleasantly surprised that Court TV backed down so quickly.

        “I had predicted the show would last four weeks,” she says. “It lasted only two.”

        Pig deal: The Making of a Pig repeats one more time at 10:30 p.m. Sunday on Channel 48. The Big Pig Gig special, hosted by WKRC-TV's Cammy Dierking and Tim Hedrick, aired July 28 on Channel 12, and Sept. 4 on Channel 48.


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