NEW YORK (AP) _ The CNBC cable network pulled a widely-advertised paid program from its weekend schedule because of concerns that the show improperly promoted stocks of three featured companies.

But the producers of the show defended the program and denied they were covertly trying to tout the stocks of the companies involved. They said they were hoping CNBC would decide to carry the show at some later date or would find another network to carry it.

The controversy illustrates the potential embarrassment that TV outlets risk once they decide to sell big chunks of air time to outside programmers. Those risks are acute for networks that specialize in covering business news.

CNBC spokesman Brian Lewis confirmed Friday that the network had decided against carrying the program ''Emerging Public Companies'' on its schedule after reviewing the program. Its first show was to have run Saturday.

The show, produced by the Hastings Group of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., included segments on three companies traded in the over-the-counter market - First Pacific Networks, Sciclone Pharmaceuticals and Embrex Inc.

The companies paid a fee to be included in the show, Hastings said.

CNBC executives were unhappy with an advertisement that Hastings Group placed in last week's Barron's magazine, and later found fault with the program itself, saying it ''bordered on touting'' the company stocks, Lewis said.

Producer Jay Silver said CNBC officials were shown a copy of the ad before it ran and voiced no objections.

Lewis said the ad that ran was different than the one submitted in advance. He said CNBC saw an ad with a disclaimer at the top that noted the show was paid programming, while the ad that ran in Barron's had the disclaimer at the bottom. He said the change left the impression that CNBC produced it.

CNBC executives got a chance to review the show on Tuesday. Lewis said they objected to having each company's stock symbol superimposed on a corner of the screen during the segment of the show devoted to it.

More broadly, he said CNBC executives felt ''the tone of the show bordered on touting and that is something we cannot put on the air'' to retain credibility as a business and financial news channel.

Lou Andreana, chief executive of Hastings Group, said CNBC told him it was reviewing the program for possible later use but had not told him of any specific objections.

He said the show was designed to inform investors about each company's history and ''in no way touts their stock.''

The producer Silver said Hastings could edit out the stock symbols if that were required to have it run.

CNBC runs about 20 hours of paid programming each week, including five hours a day on Saturday and Sunday, Lewis said. He said the network rejects roughly half the paid programs submitted for airing.

He declined to say how much the network charges, but Silver said the price for the half-hour period Hastings bought was ''close to $20,000.''

Andreana said he wants to make ''Emerging Public Companies'' a continuing program. He hopes to produce 13 episodes of the show this year and weekly shows in 1994. If CNBC refuses, he said he hopes to put it on other networks, and eventually syndicate the show to individual TV stations.

Hastings Group, a four-year-old company, already produces two others paid programs carried on CNBC - ''The Franchise Showcase'' and ''Today's Bride.''