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FOX IS GUILTY OF BAD TASTE BUT DEFINITELY NOT RACISM

SHARE FOX IS GUILTY OF BAD TASTE BUT DEFINITELY NOT RACISM

The Rev. Jesse Jackson is threatening to launch a boycott against the Fox Broadcasting Co.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are threatening Fox with some sort of congressional action.Why? Because Fox canceled "Roc," "South Central" and "In Living Color."

Great. Just what we need - Jackson and members of Congress programming a TV network.

The Congressional Black Caucus is up in arms because two shows that its members see as positive portrayals of black Americans - "Roc" and "South Central" - were dumped by Fox, while more broad, less realistic shows like "Martin" and "Living Single" remained.

But their less-than-veiled accusations of racism are distasteful and inaccurate.

Let's face it. Networks are not in business to market positive portrayals of anyone. They're in business to make money.

And they make money when a show is popular. The more people who tune in, the higher the ad rates.

For Jackson to raise a ruckus over the cancellation of "In Living Color" - a show that, at times, contained as negative a portrayal of black Americans as could be found on network TV - and "Arsenio" is ridiculous. The ratings dropped, the shows were dumped.

These were economic, not racial decisions.

"Roc" was never a great show. It did tackle tough issues, from gang violence to teen pregnancy, but it never caught on with TV viewers.

Among the ridiculous charges leveled at Fox by "Roc" star Charles Dutton is that the network failed to promote his series. There was undoubtedly less promotion this year, but particularly last season - when the show was going out live to the eastern half of the country - you couldn't turn Fox on without seeing a "Roc" ad.

Considering how weak "Roc's" ratings have been, Fox should be applauded for keeping the show on the air as long as it did.

"South Central," on the other hand, was an outstanding show. It dealt sensitively - and entertainingly - with life in that infamous section of Los Angeles as a single mother fought to raise a family.

Again, Fox promoted the heck out of the show. Nobody watched.

Is that Fox's fault? Maybe it could have found a better time slot. Maybe it could have promoted it even more than it did.

But, in the end, it was the public that rejected the show.

If "South Central" had been embraced by a quarter of the viewers as was another positive portrayal of an African-American family, "The Cosby Show," Fox would have renewed it in a millisecond.

And, again, Fox deserves some credit for at least trying to make a go of "South Central." Fox picked the series up only after CBS, which developed the show, rejected it after the pilot was shot.

Ignored in all of this is the fact that, over the past few years, the black presence on Fox has been considerable. Whether you like the shows or not, the fact is that "Living Single" and "Martin" are the two most-watched shows on network TV among black Americans.

Not to mention the fact that Fox has included "M.A.N.T.I.S." on its fall schedule. It's an hourlong series about a black superhero.

It's not great, but it's the first-ever black superhero in prime time on a network.

What the Congressional Black Congress has in mind is legislation to ensure that "the quality of television programming is realistically representative of African-American family life," Rep. Cardiss Collins, D-Ill., told the trade publication Electronic Media.

Excuse me? Since when does anything on television realistically represent any family's life?

Perhaps white congressmen should protest Fox's airing of "Married . . . With Children." The Bundys are hardly representative of white Americans.

Perhaps NBC's cancellation of "Against the Grain" should spark a boycott. This hourlong drama contained a wonderful, positive portrayal of a white family.

It got a lousy time slot, little promotion and quick cancellation.

Even positive portrayals of family life like "Dave's World," "Blossom" and "Full House" are full of buffoonish characters with no grounding in the real world.

"Full House," a "white" sitcom, has its equivalent in "Family Matters," a "black" sitcom - and if one is bad, why isn't the other?

All of this is reminiscent of a protest that organizations for the blind launched a couple of years ago against the short-lived ABC sitcom "Good & Evil." That show did indeed include a bumbling fool of a blind man.

But what the protesters failed to take into account was that the show - a broad, almost slapstick sitcom - was full of moronic, lascivious, devious and downright dopey sighted people as well.

What a lot of this seems to have boiled down to is a battle of egos. The press secretary of another member of the CBC, Rep. Edol-phus Towns (D-N.Y.), told Electronic Media that his boss was upset because Fox Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch didn't respond to their letters or come meet with them.

"For Mr. Murdoch to have the temerity to not even respond smacks of a kind of arrogance that cannot be tolerated," he said.

Oh, and Towns and his associates having the temerity to tell Murdoch how to run his business doesn't display arrogance?

There are a lot of reasons to protest against Fox, most notably the bad taste displayed in a number of shows - including "Martin" and "Living Single."

But accusing Fox of racism is way out of line.