It was business as usual last Wednesday on KTTV's "Good Day L.A." namely, a report on liquid latex in which the goo is actually painted on until it hardens into a kind of clothing.

A partially nude young woman is painted with black latex, creating a result so graphic that Channel 11 blurred the top of her torso. After the segment, anchorman Steve Edwards turns to his co-anchor Dorothy Lucey, calling her "our own pleasure boat."

Lucey follows by promoting a Fox network show coming up that night, called "Banned in America, the World's Sexiest Commercials." The segment that unfolds shows a commercial for vegetables that mimics numerous sexual acts with various kinds of produce.

Latex? Sexy vegetables? Is this news?

KTTV's management says it is, even though it routinely features overt sex jokes, double entendres, promotions of other Fox programming and leering shots of its weather reporter and co-anchor, Jillian Barberie.

"They can be risqu & #233;," said KTTV News Director Jose Rios, who like Edwards used to work at the more-sedate KCBS-TV Channel 2. "It's just an edgy show."

That edge, KTTV management believes, is the thing that gives the station its competitive advantage in the fierce morning news race.

KTTV and KTLA-TV Channel 5 are the only two L.A. stations airing their own news shows between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., when they have to compete with offerings from NBC, CBS and ABC. KTTV's show premiered in 1993 and has been in a furious battle with KTLA ever since.

KTLA has beaten KTTV in the last four sweeps in a row, and during the first weeks of the November sweeps, from Nov. 4 to 21, KTLA's morning show had an average rating of 3.3 compared with KTTV's 2.3.

With more and more choices for Los Angeles viewers in the morning (not just KTLA, but cable, radio and the Internet), one way to make a show stand out is to push the edge of the envelope. That has long been the key strategy at Fox, a network that has "Married with Children" and whose owner, Rupert Murdoch, is the tabloid king of the world. KTTV is owned and operated by Fox.

"It helps brand us in the marketplace," Rios explained. "We obviously want to be fresh and funky, but we also want to be appropriate. But this show is on Fox and it is a different network. It only makes sense that our morning show is not the same kind of cookie-cutter morning news show."

Rios said Los Angeles viewers don't want a hard news broadcast in the morning. They are just waking up to face the world. "You have to accept that a morning show has a different sensibility than an evening news show," he said. "We are more of a personality show than a straight-ahead show."

KTTV isn't always risqu & #233; and edgy, Rios maintains. It does supply news and information, and when there is a breaking story, the laughter stops.

"When there is a breaking news, Steve Edwards can turn on a dime," he said.

Frank Swertlow

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