Mormon-owned TV station: Don’t air gay kissing footage

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Viewer complaints prompted a Utah-based television station to stop airing news footage of same-sex couples kissing during wedding ceremonies.

A screen capture of a KSL-TV news broadcast. (KSL/The Desk)

A screen capture of a KSL-TV news broadcast. (KSL/The Desk)

Earlier this week, a producer at Salt Lake City station KSL-TV issued a newsroom-wide memo calling on editors and other staffers to stop using footage of couples kissing in news stories about Utah’s recently-overturned ban on same-sex marriages.

The memo, which was first published by media journalist Jim Romenesko, said the footage was the “number one complaint” the station had received from viewers. Romenesko reported the memo was distributed by KSL’s deputy managing editor Keri Wilcox, who instructed staffers to stop using kissing footage of “heterosexual couples” as well:

Monday, December 23, 2013 11:46 AM

Please avoid using kissing video in your stories about Amendment 3. That’s the number one complaint we’ve been receiving.

Same applies to heterosexual couples. So no kissing, no matter who is kissing whom.

Thanks.

The station’s top news boss Tanya Vea told a local media columnist on Christmas Eve that KSL has no official policy banning kissing on the news, but that the footage is not something they “seek to include.” Vea acknowledges the memo may be legitimate (she says she’s on vacation and hasn’t reviewed it), but says the memo — if it exists — is a “silly diversion at best,” one that attempts “to further a personal agenda and incite controversy.”

“I can guarantee you we have aired people kissing on our air,” Vea told the Salt Lake City Tribune. “And yes, we do have complaints about it…we wouldn’t have those complaints had we not aired the video.”

Whether there is a “ban” or not, KSL has stopped using kissing footage. Two days worth of news broadcasts reviewed by The Desk found the station has not included video of kissing couples — gay or straight — since Christmas Eve. Video posted on the station’s website also does not include the footage.

KSL-TV is the only television station owned by media company Bonneville International, which itself is owned by the Mormon Church. The Church has been a staunch opponent of same-sex marriage, funding voter efforts in California, Utah and elsewhere to uphold what it calls “traditional marriage.”