JACKSON, Miss. -- Officials of a black-owned television station in Jackson said Friday that protests and other pressure tactics will not persuade them to air the controversial NBC mini-series 'Beulah Land.'
William Dilday, the black general manager of WLBT, announced the decision Thursday and said the withdrawal of the movie came after talks with Jackson city officials, churc, civic and black leaders.
In the only other cancellation of the series, WBAL-TV in Baltimore said it nixed the drama about plantation life because it is 'mediocre.' Program director Judy Girard said station will show 'Roots' instead, and described 'Beulah Land' as 'just a fairly mediocre mini-series.'
In New York, meanwhile, the NAACP charged Friday that 'Beulah Land,' lacked 'positive black images.'
NBC said the program had been screened by a consultant for historical accuracy and fairness, and that changes in the script had been made before filming to accommodate criticisms by black leaders.
But Benjamin Hooks, executive director of the NAACP, said, 'We ... are concerned that there are no positive black images for our children to see and emulate.'
'How can they truly develop positive self-images if they are continually fed a steady of diet of 'Beulah Land,' 'Our Gang' comedies and 'Good Times?'' Hooks asked.
Racial tensions have been high in Jackson since the shooting of a black woman by a white police officer Aug. 29. The NAACP has led several protest marches over the incident, and both the NAACP and the Ku Klux Klan plan to march in downtown Jackson Saturday.
'Beulah Land,' which will be aired by NBC for three days beginning Tuesday, was filmed entirely in Mississippi at the historic Melrose plantation in Natchez. The national NAACP has criticized 'Beulah' for what they say is an effort to make Americans believe blacks enjoyed life on the plantation.
The movie, starring Lesley Anne Warren, Eddie Albert and others, traces the history of a plantation household from 1827 to 1872. Several characters in the movie are slaves. The screenplay was based on the novels of Lonnie Coleman.
Some of the sharpest criticism aimed at WLBT came from the from the Mississippi Film Commission, which negotiated with producers to have the film made in the state. The commission said the production company spent at least $5 million while filming in Mississippi and that about 2,000 Mississippians were invloved in the filming.
'It's hard to appreciate the argument that the film is offensive because of stereotypes, when we are bombarded regularly with situation comedies that derive their humor from stereotypes, both white and blacks,' a statement released by the film commission said. 'No matter how good or bad the film might be, the decision not to air the film is definitely censorship.'
A group of Mississippi black actors have threaened to picket the station because of the action.
Dilday said the station will not be persuaded to air the movie.
'Protests won't do any good. The decision has been made,' he said.
'We talked to several community leaders and based on their assessments of the climate of the community, we decided th showing of 'Beulah Land' would not be a responsible action.
'In a way, every station manager exerts some censorship by deciding to carry certain programs and not others, buying some syndicated productions and not others.