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Pa. UPN affiliate wants to prescreen Amish reality show

The Associated Press, USA
July 13, 2004 • Wednesday July 14, 2004

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A UPN affiliate wants to preview a reality series about Amish teenagers exploring urban life before deciding whether to air it.

Matt Uhl, the vice president and general manager of the CBS and UPN affiliates in Harrisburg, which reach some of the country’s biggest Amish communities, said Tuesday that he was concerned the show could be exploitative.

“I think this is the responsible thing to do here,” Uhl said. “I’m absolutely not saying that the show will not air, but we don’t have enough facts yet.”

Uhl said he had requested an advance copy of the show, but has not been told whether he would receive one. Should he get one, he said he wants to screen it with Amish elders, local educators and community leaders.

Uhl said he was not aware of any other UPN affiliates making the same request. A UPN network spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

“Amish in the City” is to begin with a two-hour episode July 28. UPN’s entertainment president, Dawn Ostroff, said in a statement last week that the network’s foremost concern was to treat the teenagers “with the highest respect.”

According to UPN, the series will chronicle the experiences of five young Amish men and women living beyond their spiritually devout, rural communities in a Hollywood Hills home with six other roommates. They visit the beach, a resort island and a Hollywood movie premiere.

Members of the Amish religious sect dress simply and shun most technology. At age 16, members of the sect are allowed to break free of their strict code before deciding whether they want to be baptized as adults. Most of the country’s estimated 185,000 Amish live in Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Ohio.

In February, 51 members of Congress signed a letter calling on CBS, which oversees UPN for parent company, Viacom, to abandon the project, saying that it could discriminate against the Amish and harm the sect.

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