Although it has yet to debut, a new half-hour show on Courtroom Television Network is drawing the most attention for the network since the O.J. Simpson trial. And much of the attention has been negative.
The reality show, Confessions, includes just that-statements from now-convicted murderers, rapists and other criminals culled from the files of the Manhattan District Attorney's office. The half-hour show will debut Sept. 10.
The announcement alone has brought Court TV criticism and kudos, the latter from individuals who think there is value in gaining insight on the criminal mind.
But many critics-including The New York Times, in a biting editorial-called the program exploitative, and at least one elected official-councilman Nate Holden of Los Angeles-has called for Court TV and parent Time Warner Inc. to voluntarily withdraw the program.
"I'm deeply troubled by the show. If they have an ounce of reasoning, they'll take this off. People should not be bred to think like animals," Holden said.
He added that he had not seen the show, which had yet to air.
Indeed, Court TV is not offered in franchise areas K and I-the zones served by AT & T Broadband in Los Angeles, where Holden's constituents live, according to the cable company. AT & T Broadband officials declined to comment about the controversy.
Holden said he based his opinions on news articles about the content of the show. He noted that Court TV has a First Amendment right to decide on its own programming, but he is concerned about the segment of society that learns behavior on TV.
"This [show] is gruesome. TV and newspapers can be educational and informative, and some people think if they see it on TV, it's the right thing to do," he said. "We can't tolerate a sick society. Sickness breeds sickness."
Holden wrote to Time Warner officials, asking them to remove Confessions from the schedule. He said he would introduce a motion Tuesday (Sept. 5) before the Los Angeles City Council, condemning the show.
But the series has some high-profile supporters, too. Marc Klaas-whose daughter was kidnapped, raped and murdered by a home invader-has publicly stated that the show will give viewers a better understanding of the criminal mind.
And in news articles about the show, Milwaukee District Attorney Mike McCaan offered similar sentiments. McCaan prosecuted murderer-cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer, and he also served as a member of the National Cable Television Association's media-violence-study board.
Critics questioned the use of crime footage as entertainment. But Court TV executives said the purpose of their network is to offer the public "their own seat in the courtroom."
"This not is news, this is not entertainment. We don't have a word for it," Court TV spokeswoman Frederika Brookfield said.
In response to the controversy, Court TV said last week that it would pair the debut episode with a panel discussion on the issues raised by the show. Court TV anchor Catherine Crier will host the half-hour panel and analysis at 10:30 p.m., immediately following the 10 p.m. premiere of Confessions Sept. 10.
Announcing the special panel discussion last week, Court TV president Henry Schleiff said: "We believe valid concerns have been raised regarding the need for additional context for this program, given the absence of a regular host or narrator, in the otherwise unfiltered look into the criminal mind this show provides."
Linda Moss contributed to this story.