Coal miners plan to go to CBS in New York to protest reality hillbilly show

Wednesday, April 16th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PIKEVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ Appalachian coal miners will go to New York to protest a CBS reality television series called ``The Real Beverly Hillbillies'' unless plans for the show are canceled.

Cecil E. Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America, said his members intend to show up at the May 21 shareholders meeting of Viacom, CBS' parent company.

``This plan _ to take a poor rural family, place them in a Hollywood mansion and ridicule them on national television _ is repugnant to me and to the union members I represent,'' Roberts wrote in a letter to Viacom's top executives.

Viacom spokesman Carl Folta said the mine workers are welcome at the meeting but declined to comment further.

CBS spokesman Chris Ender said Wednesday no decision has yet been made on whether production will go forward.

Across the Appalachian region, people have been voicing strong opposition to the show, a takeoff from ``The Beverly Hillbillies'' sitcom, which ran on CBS from 1962 to 1971 and remains a staple of the TV Land cable channel.

That show, about a poor mountaineer who became rich when he struck oil on his mountain property, became television's No. 1 program, attracting up to 60 million viewers weekly.

Last month, 43 members of the U.S. House of Representatives representing states from Florida to Texas asked that plans for the show be scuttled.

In a joint letter to CBS President Leslie Moonves, the congressmen expressed outrage over the proposed program. U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., called the planned show ``trash that should have no place on the public airwaves.''

The Center for Rural Strategies, an advocacy group, has placed ads in some of the country's largest newspapers, criticizing the proposed series as demeaning to rural people.

Tim Marema, the group's vice president, said he hopes the coal miners' union, with 100,000 members, can help to derail the show.

``I would think a protest by miners would be the last thing Viacom would want at its annual meeting,'' Marema said. ``The union's stand on this show is one more indication to how widespread opposition to this program is.''