TV: No deal for KSL airing of poker game show

The station declines to show the prime-time game show, citing "community standards."
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KSL Channel 5, the local television station owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, won't air the prime-time poker game show "Face the Ace," saying the subject of gambling does not meet "community standards."

The game show, which airs nationally Saturday nights at 8 p.m., involves contestants playing Texas Hold 'em against professional poker players for a cash prize. KSL has pre-empted the show's first two episodes since it premiered Aug. 1. The show will return next month.

"The whole idea of gambling is an issue for us, and so we have chosen to pre-empt it," said KSL general manager Greg James. "We talked about it [with KSL's programming director and the station's senior managers], and we didn't feel it matched up with community standards."

NBC, however, calls "Face the Ace" a "game show," and says it arguably doesn't involve gambling because contestants play without the risk of losing their own money.

While the LDS Church owns the station, James said church officials had no say in the decision. Gambling, including a state lottery, is banned in Utah.

The Mormon Church advises its members not to gamble because it is "motivated by a desire to get something for nothing. This desire is spiritually destructive," according to the church's Web site.

It's not the first time KSL has refused to broadcast poker tournaments on its station or pre-empted network programming deemed inappropriate for Utah viewers.

KSL also pre-empts the nightly NBC show "Poker After Dark," which normally would air at 1 a.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. It also has pre-empted poker tournaments airing on NBC Sports on the weekends (though the station did air the prime-time NBC drama "Las Vegas," which was set in a Nevada casino).

KSL still doesn't broadcast "Saturday Night Live" for graphic content (KUCW Channel 30 picks up that show instead), and once pre-empted an episode of "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" because the guests were performers from the stage show "Puppetry of the Penis."

In addition, the station didn't air the NBC sitcom "Coupling" because of its sexual content, and the animated series "God, the Devil and Bob" because of its depiction of God. Most recently, KSL planned not to air a Madonna concert in 2006 because of a mock crucifixion in her stage show, but eventually aired the special when NBC cut that segment.

KPRC in Houston and WTMJ in Milwaukee are two other NBC affiliates who refuse to air "Face the Ace," because of policies banning gambling on TV. NBC said it didn't know of other stations that have refused to air the show.

"Face the Ace," which is hosted by Steve Schirripa of "The Sopranos," will return in September and will likely air on network stations once a month in the afternoons, according to the network.