AS I SEE IT 8/22/2001
For those of you reading this column who think that all the focus
on the Parents Television Council and their campaigning of advertisers is irrelevant for a
wrestling column, you might wish to read the following story from EOnline.com, as well as
two other items concerning them.
First... CBS, a member of the Viacom family of networks, which broadcasts WWF programming on TNN, UPN, and MTV; apparently gave in to advertiser objections about the theme of an episode of the drama "Family Law" (handguns) and pulled the episode, when advertiser Proctor and Gamble threatened to withdraw advertising.
"...CBS Tidies Up for Advertiser
Marcus Errico, E! Online.com
Procter & Gamble makes the world a shinier, happier place. Now, thanks to the maker of Tide, Cascade and Head & Shoulders, CBS is cleaning up its act.
CBS pulled a rerun of Family Law Monday after Procter & Gamble deemed the episode too controversial for its family-friendly image and decided not to advertise on the drama.
The network--mired in an industry-wide advertising slump and desperate for ad dollars--decided to bump the episode (in which a young child uses his mother's handgun to kill a sibling) and replace it with a less controversial show (about spousal abuse) that Procter & Gamble approved of.
For its part, CBS denies the advertiser had any undue influence on the network. 'This was an ordinary, internal decision in the process of scheduling summer reruns,' says CBS spokesman Gil Schwartz. 'If you only plan to repeat a few episodes of a series, it is common business sense to rebroadcast the episodes with the most sales potential.'
According to The New York Times, more than half the 24 episodes of Family Law from last season failed to make the summer schedule--many of which deal with such hot-button topics as the death penalty, abortion and interfaith marriage.
The Times also reports CBS could not name another show that had been pre-empted due to advertiser objection..."
It should be noted that Proctor and Gamble are applauded by the Parents Television Council as refusing to run advertising on WWF programming; yet routinely advertises on daytime dramas featuring such themes as adultery, murder, and drug use airing during hours when children can "easily view it".
Now Proctor and Gamble is apparently using their advertising muscle to control the themes of programs of a series on which they advertise.
This is important as the fall season approaches; given the fact that the television advertising market has been noted to be "soft", even by the WWFE's CEO Linda McMahon. Advertisers pressured by the Parents Television Council could conceivably withdraw advertising. Given the above item, it's not impossible that they could call upon the WWF to alter their program content.
If you'd like to offer your opinion to Proctor and Gamble on this matter, you can do so by snail mail/telephone at:
A. G. Lafley, President and CEO
Procter & Gamble Company
One Procter and Gamble Plaza
Cincinnati, OH 45202
You can also contact them online at this URL
You can contact Viacom by snail mail/telephone at:
Sumner Redstone, CEO
New York, NY 10036
You can also do so via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next, is the question about whether or not L. Brent Bozell's concern is about children, or about finding a vulnerable target from which he can raise money.
A case in point is the PTC's lack of reaction to the continuing story of young men tragically dying during summer football practices this summer. Within the last week, two teenagers in Texas (one 15, one 14) died. As a result, autopsies were ordered, and the Texas State Education Commission is being asked to construct a new set of guidelines in hopes of preventing more deaths.
This makes 6 deaths surrounding football practice within around a month's time: 3 high school players, 2 college players, and Minnesota Viking Korey Stringer.
While ANY death is tragic, one has to wonder about what the PTC would have said, were these the deaths of WWF wrestlers... or deaths of independent wrestlers... or "children imitating TV wrestling". Can you imagine the reaction if these deaths had happened under those circumstances?
But with 6 deaths in a month, have readers heard of any bans for football from the Parents Television Council?
You've not heard L. Brent Bozell calling for the NFL to be blamed because high school or college players dropped dead on a field. You haven't heard Bozell and his allies calling for advertisers on ESPN or FOX to be boycotted, because a player at Northwestern dropped dead in a practice that was likely held in violation of NCAA rules.
Why aren't they blamed?
Because of the eternal public perception of a sport like football versus a performance art like pro wrestling. As a result, those advertisers on sports entertainment programming of this type can be pressured by groups like the PTC in a soft ad market in a way football won't...because the PTC feels wrestling is a vulnerable target to use for raising money. They don't dare campaign against football.
Finally, readers should be aware that the PTC may be coming...to their own backyards.
The PTC stated in its most recent E-Alert update that it is seeking to form state and local chapters and is "looking for volunteer chapter directors and committee members at both state and local levels", listing the Los Angeles office of the PTC as a contact for information.
It would seem that the PTC may be trying to shift to a grass-roots model of organizing...which means that they can go after forms of entertainment they deem "inappropriate" on your local TV stations, or live shows in your local arena. They've already attempted to go after wrestling legend Dory Funk and his local promotion in Florida, even without local chapters as such.
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com)