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Fox Programs Aggressive Specials

October 23, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ Car chases, prison uprisings, piranhas and swarms of bees _ Fox will be a dangerous place to watch TV next month.

Brushing aside criticism of its ``reality TV″ specials, Fox on Wednesday announced a schedule of specials full of videotaped actual events in an effort to do well during November ``sweeps,″ when TV ratings are monitored to determine advertising rates.

Among the specials:

_``Video Justice: Crime Caught on Tape,″ an hour-long collection of police work, including a peeping tom, pyromaniac and burglar caught in the act.

_``Cheating Death: Catastrophes Caught on Tape,″ showing survival scenes.

_``The World’s Scariest Police Chases,″ with pursuits of criminals taped by police and news photographers.

_``The World’s Deadliest Swarms,″ a nature special featuring piranhas, locusts, mice and bees.

_``Prisoners Out of Control,″ showing video of ``the horrors that can happen behind prison walls.″

Fox’s use of such video footage has drawn criticism.

A rival television executive, NBC’s Don Ohlmeyer, said last year that its video of animal attacks was ``one step short of a snuff film.″

``They’re reprehensible,″ said George Gerbner, a Temple University professor who studies violence on television. ``They exploit the worst fears and nightmares of people.″

They’re also popular.

The specials generally draw higher ratings than the average Fox prime-time show, particularly among younger men, an audience Fox aggressively courts. Fox is clustering its specials on Tuesdays and Thursdays and taking low-rated shows off the air temporarily.

``I don’t think we do particularly more of the genre,″ Fox spokesman Thomas Tyrer said. ``We have come to be known for doing these specials because they have a high profile and have been successful.″

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