Following a pledge from Disney not to depict smoking in movies released under the Disney studio label, Crown’s Hallmark Channel became the 1st cable net to say it will seek to eliminate cigarette smoking in its original movies. "If there is a larger message in this, it’s that we’re trying to take a leadership position in the cable industry," Crown CEO Henry Schleiff, a former smoker himself, told Cfax. "When you hear so much about government regulation… when there’s an opportunity to self-regulate, we should take advantage of that." He added that there are probably other networks with similar policies that haven’t publicized it. The announcement comes in response to House Telecom chmn Ed Markey’s (D-MA) challenge for studios and producers to take steps to address glamorized or pervasive depictions of smoking on screen. Markey commended Hallmark’s move Fri, saying he looked forward to receiving additional commitments to discourage or eliminate smoking from movie studios and prominent cable programmers. Before AMC rushes out to get nicotine patches for the cast of characters in new drama "Mad Men," Schleiff said he knows the smoking ban wouldn’t be right for every network. His take: "When we’re asked to do something that’s appropriate to our own networks—let’s respond. The cable industry is responsive to reasonable requests." Hallmark says it’s the largest producer of original movies in the cable industry, with plans for 27 films in ’08. It will not edit smoking out of older originals or acquired programs but will seek to nix it from new original productions unless it’s really essential to the storyline, Schleiff said. Of course, Hallmark’s no smoking policy fits well with its marketing of itself as a family-friendly network—a moniker that Schleiff has hammered home this year as he seeks rate increases in contract renewals with most of the net’s affiliates.

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