Hot Buttons: Talk show topics

By ALEX CUKAN, United Press International  |  Sept. 27, 2002 at 3:15 AM
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A new television network aimed at hospital patients is wooing advertising from the nation's largest pharmaceutical companies, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The Patient Channel, owned by General Electric Co.'s GE Medical Systems, is likely to become a flash point in the national debate about the propriety of drug sellers taking their ads directly to the public.

The 24-hour-a-day television network, launched to 50,000 hospital patients, expects to reach 22 million patients a year by 2003 and hopes to generate up to $40 million in advertising revenue a year.

The Patient Channel aims to entice a captive bedridden audience to choose among such half-hour educational segments as "Cancer Related Fatigue," flanked by commercials trumpeting pharmaceuticals.

Referring a patient to a specific program on the channel may be viewed as a way to help meet federal requirements to educate patients about their conditions while freeing up overworked nurses, the Journal writes.

-- Are ads targeting the vulnerable in the hospital unfair?

-- If a doctor tells a patient to watch a program, will the patient think the drugs being hawked are endorsed by the physician?


Julia Roberts' heroic Erin Brockovich and Meg Ryan's delightfully uptight Sally Albright may make for an entertaining dinner and movie -- but would you want to spend a whole week with them?

Blockbuster has been asking customers to list the movies, movie characters and directors they'd most want to spend a week with, because it now rents movies for a week.

"Erin Brockovich" finished atop the list of movie characters, followed by Albright from "When Harry Met Sally," and Michael Corleone from "The Godfather."

Forty-three percent of respondents say they'd most want to spend a week with movie director Steven Spielberg, who outdistanced Penny Marshall, George Lucas and Martin Scorsese.

Respondents were less unanimous about the movies they'd most like to watch over and over for an entire week -- "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" was cited by 15 percent -- followed by "Spider-Man," "The Godfather," "American Pie," "Star Wars" and "When Harry Met Sally."

-- What movie would you want to watch over and over in a week?

-- What movie have you watched over and over?


Jack Mabley, a columnist with the Daily Herald in Chicago, writes the Chicago Tribune's Bob Greene's departure, after it came to light he had sex with a 17-year-old female he met through his job, has generated nationwide discussion about the journalistic codes of ethics.

"By today's codes I'd have been fired a dozen times for some of the things I did as an investigative reporter and editor," he says.

A colleague invited Mabley to list some of these early ventures -- some involving illegal wiretaps -- that he was either directly involved in or was the supervising editor. They include: a bug in the hotel room of Springfield, Ill., lobbyists, a tap on the line of a politician, access to the income tax returns of a high-ranking state official, and reporters posing as or infiltrating the ranks of ambulance drivers, banquet waiters, mental hospital attendants and American Nazis.

-- Do you agree with Mabley such stories built circulation, were good reading and provided a public service so bending the ethics can do more good than bad?

-- If journalists bend or break the rules, are they no better than those they are trying to catch?

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