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  Dec 17, 1999

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TSN steers WWF show away from young eyes

By MIKE GANTER -- Toronto Sun

  In the television business, ratings are everything, but not even good numbers could justify TSN keeping a show it knew didn't belong in the time slot it had been showing it.

 A little nudge from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission was all it took to extract WWF's Raw is War from where it did not belong.

 As of Feb. 1, the sometimes controversial wrestling show no longer will be repeated at 4 p.m., on Tuesdays. It now will be shown only at 9 p.m., and midnight on Mondays.

 Since September, the 4 p.m. slot has drawn an average audience of 175,000 viewers. The problem was more than one-third of that audience was below the age of 18, the minimum age for which TSN felt the program was appropriate. Bureau of Broadcast Measurement data from September 1998 had 11% of the audience between the ages of two and 11.

 The CRTC received 31 complaints about WWF wrestling on TSN in the past 16 months. The main concern was the violence, according to TSN president Rick Brace, although it's no secret some story lines in the WWF also have taken on a decidedly overt sexual tones.

 "What we have had to balance is the audience, which is significant, against the concerns we have had with the content of the programming," Brace said. "All the way along, we have been talking with the WWF to try to make sure we stayed within the guidelines, but what the CRTC has done is kind of helped us with our conscience a little bit and we have made the determination that it's worthwhile making the change."

 WWF's Monday night 9 p.m. telecast of Raw is War draws an average audience of 365,000.

 TSN also carries WCW Nitro on Wednesday afternoons as well as at midnight and, while no formal complaints were lodged with the CRTC about that particular show, Brace said it also will be restricted to prime time.

 Brace admitted the decision was not an easy one. He pointed out Raw is War has outdrawn NHL telecasts on a number of occasions.

 Initially, TSN attempted to keep Raw's Tuesday afternoon time slot by editing the program, but it became clear that wasn't going to work.

 "At the end of the day, and editing as much as we did and understanding that at some point you start to lose the context of the story line, rather than continue on in that vein we thought it best to eliminate that time slot," Brace said.

 Despite the schedule change, Brace said the show still will be monitored closely by his staff and edited if necessary.