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Los Angeles ABC Station Won’t Air Reports on Child Abuse

January 3, 1985

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ ABC-TV’s Los Angeles station will not broadcast Thursday’s ″20-20″ program featuring a report on the McMartin Pre-School child molestation case because the documentary might hurt the children and families involved, a station spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Barring a last-minute change in the newsmagazine’s Thursday lineup, network-owned KABC will instead run a one-hour documentary titled ″Video From Russia: The People Speak,″ said spokeswoman Gaylynn Monroe.

″The program director’s statement is that we definitely will air ‘Video From Russia’ if ’20-20′ definitely airs the McMartin segment,″ Ms. Monroe said.

Neither program director Craig Haffner nor station manager Tom Van Amburg were available for comment, but Ms. Monroe said Van Amburg ″did not feel that that segment could be aired at this time in this area.″

A preliminary hearing is under way for seven people, including the school’s founder, Virginia McMartin.

The defendants are charged with more than 200 counts of rape, sodomy and other abuse against 42 pre-schoolers at the nursery school in suburban Manhattan Beach over a period of years. The case is not expected to be resolved before 1986.

″Manhattan Beach is a very small community, and he (Van Amburg) felt that (the ″20-20″ program) would be detrimental to the children and families involved,″ Ms. Monroe said. ″The station wouldn’t want to contribute to any pretrial prejudice as well.″

″We are definitely airing the McMartin segment,″ said ABC News spokesman Tom Goodman in New York.

He said the ″20-20″ show set for broadcast Thursday night actually includes three segments dealing with child abuse. One, by Tom Jarriel, deals with whether brain-washing was used to keep McMartin students from speaking out about the alleged abuse and includes material from an interview with McMartin defendant Betty Raidor.

Ken Kashiwahara has a report on the use of children as witnesses in such cases, and Barbara Walters interviews a psychiatrist on whether child molestation victims ever recover.

Goodman said ABC News vice president Av Westin, who is also executive producer of ″20-20,″ showed Van Amburg a tape of the show.

″Mr. Van Amburg felt the piece was responsible, but told Mr. Westin that he could not broadcast it because the station has a policy against showing child abuse victims on camera,″ Goodman said.

Goodman said the children featured in the broadcast were not recognizable, and their voices were electronically scrambled.

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