Originally created 08/15/98

Fox will try to win viewers with family-friendly fare



The Family Channel has a new owner and a new name.

Beginning today, the Family Channel is now the Fox Family Channel. Only Pat Robertson's 700 Club carries over, something that was part of the deal when the televangelist sold the channel to Rupert Murdoch.

The 700 Club will be on a three-week hiatus and will return to the cable network Sept. 7 for regular broadcast at 9:30 a.m. weekdays, according to Bill Botham, public relations manager for Jones Intercable in Augusta. Viewers with questions about the changeover may call toll-free at (877) 983-2645.

Programming highlights today include a broadcast at 8 p.m. of the movie Mrs. Doubtfire. Sunday, the network will feature a Spice Girls special at 6 p.m., and an original movie, National Lampoon's Men in White, at 8 p.m.

Filling the vacancies left by Hawaii Five-O, Father Dowling Mysteries and other Family Channel staples are cartoons during the day; reality shows, game shows, comedies and movies until 11 p.m. and infomercials in the wee hours. Half of the schedule will be original programming.

It's all about transforming the Family Channel from cable's safest haven of nonthreatening programming to an outlet that "combines the Fox attitude with family values," said Maureen Smith, Fox Family's executive vice president, who claims the channel will be "even more family than its predecessor."

Fox Family believes it has its finger on America's pulse. Executives seem to realize that they'll alienate some older folks but will pick up enough new viewers to make it worth their while. They were expected to be in 72 million cable homes, and they believe their comedy-heavy schedule will keep parents around the TV set with their kids.

"The old channel wasn't something a lot of families were watching as a group," said Rich Cronin, president and CEO of the revamped channel. "Kids and teens are not sitting down to watch shows like Diagnosis Murder or Hawaii Five-O. These are fine shows, don't get me wrong, but we have the opportunity to expand on the current audience by creating a network that the whole family will watch together."