Promotional announcements that gave the impression President Reagan was plugging the new James Bond movie will no longer be shown on WTTG (Channel 5), the Metromedia station here.
Kevin O'Brien, general manager of the station, insisted yesterday that the station always planned to drop the promos--which advertise a James Bond TV special to air tomorrow--as of last night anyway, and that their disappearance has nothing to do with disapproval of the ads expressed by the White House.
But a White House spokesman said legal counsel there had told the New York headquarters of MGM/UA Television, distributors of the special, that the promos were considered offensive, and MGM/UA in turn asked WTTG to stop running them.
Apparently the White House does not object to the domestic distribution of the program itself, which is timed to coincide with the current James Bond movie "Octopussy," but only to the WTTG promos, which have the appearance of official White House announcements and give the impression that the president of the United States has taken time from his busy schedule to shill for a movie.
When President Reagan filmed his remarks about James Bond, the fictional British superspy, in April, it was with the understanding that the remarks would be part of a one-time-only London Weekend Television special that aired in England the following month. "Octopussy" is an MGM/UA theatrical release and the TV special, "James Bond, The First 21 Years," was acquired for distribution here by MGM/UA's TV division.
The White House spokesman said yesterday that MGM/UA had been "extremely apologetic and 100 percent cooperative" when White House counsel complained about the promos. MGM/UA promised to warn all the stations that had bought the program, but not yet aired it, not to pull the president's remarks out of the show and use them in promotional spots.
But O'Brien said he thought the promos were a legitimate use of the presidential footage and said "excerpting rights" were part of the deal the station made when it bought the show from MGM/UA.
"If this proved embarrassing to President Reagan, I don't feel good about that," said O'Brien, "but WTTG is going to be an aggressive, up-tempo station, and we thought that promo would help the show. Since the president was in the body of the show, it seemed perfectly all right to use that footage."
O'Brien said he had not heard from the White House directly. "I don't think the White House will call. Personally, I don't think it's that big a deal. I'm kind of surprised about all the hoopla. I expected some repercussions, but I didn't expect any reaction from the White House, since the president himself was in the special.
"If they're worried about credibility," O'Brien said, "he should never have appeared in the special in the first place."