‘Be Heard!’ creator hopes MTV hears him
June 21, 2002
The fledgling, locally produced television show for teens “Be Heard!” is caught up in a trademark battle with cable giant Viacom and its subsidiary MTV.”Be Heard!” which began airing in markets around the nation on public television outlets last fall, is a half-hour talk show. It features a panel of teens in the lobby of a shopping mall, surrounded by hundreds of their peers, discussing a variety of topics, ranging from bullying to underage drinking.The first six episodes were originally broadcast, with surprising success, on KRMA, one of two public television stations in Denver. American Public Television agreed to syndicate the program after public television stations in 30 towns and cities from suburban Los Angeles to Chicago agreed to air it.Chris Tribble, a Glenwood Springs-area video production specialist, conceived and produced “Be Heard!” He has been working to secure sponsors and locations to produce a new round of shows for the upcoming fall television season.Then came MTV. In February, the teen-and-young-adult-broadcasting behemoth aired an interactive youth forum with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. The show’s title was “Be Heard: An MTV Global Discussion With Colin Powell” and had Powell sitting in a studio taking questions from young people at MTV studios around the country and the world.Tribble found out about the plans from a friend who heard about the MTV version shortly before it aired. But there was little he could do to stop MTV from airing its version.But Tribble decided to protect his trademark rights to the term “Be Heard!” hiring the Minneapolis-based law firm Best & Flanagan to do battle with MTV and Viacom.”When you’ve invested two years of your own and others’ time and money, you have to respond,” Tribble said.A letter was sent to Viacom’s lawyers pointing out that Tribble had registered the trademark for “Be Heard!” at least when it is being used as a title or promotion for youth-oriented talk shows. Viacom responded by saying it would not use “Be Heard!” Tribble said they also agreed to remove the “Be Heard” title from their Web site and discontinue promotions using the term.So far, it appears that MTV will live up to its promise not to air another version of the global forum titled “Be Heard.” But “Be Heard: A Global Forum …”is still on the station’s Web site, and a growing number of publications are beginning to tie the title to MTV.”That’s starting to make it hard for me,” Tribble said, especially in his effort to secure major corporate sponsorship before the broadcast season begins next fall.Tribble, who frequently works as a cameraman and field producer on news and sporting events for major cable and broadcast networks, said the Colin Powell version of “Be Heard” was flat compared to the more interactive program he’s developed.He’s hoping for one of two solutions to come out of the trademark dispute: Either Viacom forms a partnership with him to produce “Be Heard!” or it purges all references to the Colin Powell program that uses his trademarked term.”They can call their program anything they want, they just can’t call it ‘Be Heard,'” Tribble said. “But hopefully this will end up with some kind of collaboration.”Viacom and MTV representatives did not return messages seeking comment.