Station won’t air pivotal ‘Ellen’

NEW YORK (AP) — ABC’s TV station in Birmingham, Ala., won’t run the coming-out-of-the-closet episode of “Ellen” later this month.
“We do not think it is appropriate for family viewing,” said Jerry Heilman, president and general manager of WBMA.
ABC hasn’t heard whether any of its 222 other affiliates have rejected the show, spokeswoman Anne Marie Riccatelli said Thursday. The network won’t know about most of them until a few days before it airs, she said.
During the hourlong episode April 30, Ellen DeGeneres’ character, Ellen Morgan, reveals she is a lesbian. “Ellen” will thus become the first primetime TV show with a gay leading character.
The 39-year-old DeGeneres also said this past week that she’s a lesbian.
The Birmingham station tried to get permission from ABC to air the episode at 11:30 p.m., rather than 8 p.m., but the network wouldn’t allow it, Heilman said.
“Our stance right now is that we will not be showing the first episode. There’s a possibility we won’t carry any of the episodes in May if it deals with the same thing. We’ll take it an episode at a time,” he said.
The decision amounts to censorship, said a spokeswoman for the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington-based gay rights organization.
“The viewing public can make its own decision on whether to watch this episode or not,” spokeswoman Kim Mills said.
An advocacy group that campaigns against sex and violence on TV praised the Birmingham station. The American Family Association hopes other stations follow suit, even though it hasn’t organized any campaign to encourage them.
“I think it’s great news that an ABC affiliate has chosen not to go along with Disney and ABC’s big celebration of lesbianism,” said Tim Wildmon, the group’s executive vice president.