AS I SEE IT - 1/04/2001
IIn a direct (and skillful) response to the Parents Television Council and the
critics of the pay-and-pray Religious Right, WWF Entertainment, Inc. has established a
website called WWF Parents.com to address concerns of parents regarding the suitability of
its product content. The site can be found at http://www.wwfparents.com.
The WWF offers the following prologue for the website:
"We have built this web site to serve as a resource for parents with questions regarding the content of WWF programs. Millions of parents watch WWF programs with their teenagers and children. This, as with any television viewing choice, is a personal family decision. We hope the information on this site helps to make that personal choice easier.
Before watching WWF programs, we encourage parents to make sure that their kids understand that WWF Superstars are trained professionals. They are exceptional athletes who have made a career out of learning to complete wrestling moves without hurting themselves or others.
Our shows are about entertainment. Most of the action is slapstick. Our programs are tailored for teens and young adults, who comprise 50 percent of our audience. About 64 percent of our audience is 18 years of age or older....
Some of our viewers are younger children. If parents make the decision to allow their children to watch our programming, we encourage those parents to watch with their children. We urge parents who allow younger children to watch our programming to explain that what our Superstars do on television should not be emulated in real life."
As did the WWFE's "Smackdown The Vote" campaign, the website works with recognized organizations, such as the Oakland-based Children Now and its "Talking With Kids About Tough Issues" Campaign, designed to use radio, TV, print, and online media to address a youth perspective on sexuality, AIDS, violence and drugs.
Another portion of the website addresses the Consumer Product Ratings (the ratings you see in the upper corner of your screen, such as TV 14) for both home videos and PPVs, listing the ratings of each product. This section of the website will eventually be doing so for all WWFE video games and action figures.
A section called "Parents and Kids" offers an interactive opportunity, much like the email@example.com address does for anti-PTC activity, and to serve as a guide to "help parents turn the viewing of our programs into positive parenting and teaching opportunities."
This section also seeks to allow parents to share how they have used WWF programming as a positive incentive to get children to learn or to establish what is appropriate and inappropriate social behavior, and notes (correctly) that both are found in WWFE programming.
Readers who wish to participate in this section of the site can do so at LearnFromYourPeers@WWFParents.com.
Other areas on the WWFParents.com website (in an obvious and direct PR thrust at the PTC) stress strongly the "parental choice" option regarding various WWF television programming, such as the following in the "Greetings from Linda McMahon" section:
"World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc. takes seriously our responsibility to help parents identify appropriate entertainment for their children. That's why we voluntarily rate all our network and cable programs -- to help parents identify what type of content to expect when their children tune in to our shows. Our ratings system enables parents to block programs with content they feel is inappropriate for their child using the V-Chip or cable blocking technology."
The "Live Events-What To Expect" section addresses the behavior of fans at events as being comparable to major sports and entertainment events, and describes what options parents have with attending said shows:
"Live events may include suggestive dialogue, coarse language, sexual situations, and violence. We recommend that all parents first watch RAW IS WAR before making the decision to attend a WWF live event with their child."
Given that this site is operated by the WWF, there is a "News" section which reports on positive stories associated with the company, such as the charitable events in which the company and its performers participate. It does not, however, connect in any manner to any advertising or merchandising associated with WWFE.
The final section "Where WWFE Stands" addresses the company's stated viewpoints toward Internet privacy and "backyard wrestling". The "Backyard Wrestling" sections (there are two that address it) state how the company opposes backyard wrestling, urging parents to be aware of it, and encouraging the completion of high school or college before training for professional wrestling.
I will say that the "Backyard Wrestling" section is may be the one area where WWFParents.com could be seen as being weak. While the WWF has repeatedly used warnings to children about "not trying this at home" on their programming well as far back as the 1980s; it's also no secret that footage of Mick Foley and The Hardy Boyz in their backyard days have been shown on WWF programming. This contradiction does create some fuzziness in this portion of the message.
But overall, this website is a brilliant answer to the Parents Television Council and their corporate terrorism, while dealing with the very real concerns of what parents should and shouldn't do in terms of dealing with the suitability of the company's programming in every possible medium.
Perhaps even before you read this column, the PTC and their friends will loudly complain that this is merely a PR stunt by the WWF to make themselves look good given the PTC's public criticism.
Well, good corporate citizenship and good public relations put together in the same package isn't necessarily a bad thing. Perhaps the PTC itself could learn from this. How about actual and proven examples of the "Parents Television Council" performing acts of charity?
* Has the PTC been involved in Toys for Tots campaigns like the WWF and a number of other northeast US independent promotions were this holiday season? I've been happy to publicize three of them this past season on PWBTS.com.
* Has the PTC been involved with organizations like Make-A-Wish Foundation, Sunshine Foundation, and the Starlight Foundation as the WWF and WCW has? Even Paul Heyman has been involved with such organizations, prior to his ECW days. Heyman was so insistent that what he did not be publicized that it's difficult to cite specific examples like I can in the next case.
Some years back, I was privileged to have a part in one such effort with a wrestling company. I know that, beyond even cooperating with the Starlight Foundation, the promoter in question paid money out of pocket to help this young man's dream happen. The promoter never wanted to get attention for it. He didn't, until now.
That promoter was Jim Cornette and his Smoky Mountain Wrestling company and people associated with it such as Brian Hildebrand and Les Thatcher who together made a young man's dream happen.
This WWFParents.com effort and the acts that it has publicized can put forth a more balanced picture than the propaganda from the spin-doctors of the PTC and the Religious Right, which we've been seeing accepted as truth by people who ought to know better, including many in the major wrestling media.
Now the ball is in your court, Mr. Bozell.
Let's hear some documented examples of your organization's charitable efforts.
Let's hear your opinions of this WWFE effort, and see if you can manage to offer an opinion on them that is not tinged with ideologically inspired malice.
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org)