May is traditionally sweeps month, when TV stations tout their most spectacular and lurid fare to draw viewers away from other sta-tions.
The wardrobes are sexier, the plots more bizarre and the exposes more explosive in this ruthless bid for ratings.Alas, Salt Lake City's own cable TV station, SL41, must enter the May fray without the one program it hoped would gather families around the TV set twice a week.
There will be no televised City Council meetings. The shy men of the Salt Lake City Council voted against televised meetings. The 5-2 vote was split along sex lines, with the two women on the council urging the men to face up to their fear of technology and pancake make-up.
Tom Dillon, spokesman for the city station, was disappointed by the council's decision. He hoped the City Council could do for SL41 what the South Dakota Legislature did for the public TV station Dillon worked for there. "When we started doing the Legislature, the viewership jumped like mad. It was great," Dillon said.
SL41's ratings won't be in for another month, but no one expects them to be high. To date, the station has very few programs, offering instead safety tips, photos of the city's golf courses and meeting agendas aired to classical music.
The council's fears ranged from food and a Top Stop drink cup to the possibility that the public might misunderstand some televised issues. The council discussed the matter over paper plate dinners at a committee of the whole meeting last week.
"The truth of the matter is I would not eat at this table ever if a camera were in front of me," Council Chairman Keith Chris-ten-sen said between mouthfuls. Christensen owns Top Stop markets, and he was sipping from a Top Stop cup. He couldn't have his company cup in front of him at a televised meeting because some people might construe it as advertising, he told colleagues.
Councilman Tom Godfrey worried that a TV camera might destroy the spontaneous discussion among council members. "That's what this meeting is for. It's not for someone's entertainment."
Councilman Stuart Reid considered televised meetings inevitable but hoped it would happen during a successor's tenure. "You open this up to the council, and what should be a deliberative process turns into a carnival."
Councilwoman Joanne Milner scoffed at her colleagues's fears. "Should we be that intimidated?" she asked. "We're supposed to be futuristic."
But Christensen cited the pluses and minuses of televising the O.J. Simpson trial. Council staff noted that the British Parliament's lively debates were shunted off to committee meetings after C-SPAN began televising Parliament.
"I have no problem with any of my constituents hearing anything I say, no matter how stupid," said Councilwoman Deeda Seed.
Councilman Sam Souvall thought it was a good idea to televise Planning Commission meetings or neighborhood councils, but not City Council meetings.