Christian Leaders for Responsible Television (CLEAR-TV) announced in July a one-year boycott of the Mennen Company and Clorox Corporation because of their sponsorship of television programs that contain sex, violence, and profanity. Boycott organizers say “a deep indignation” in Americans at “offensive” TV shows will dry up sales of sponsors’ products.
“I think the people are ready,” said Billy Melvin, chairman of CLEAR-TV and executive director of the National Association of Evangelicals. “All we had to do was tell them where to boycott.”
The companies were chosen from a list of 400 advertisers who sponsored programming during the April 27-May 24 sweeps rating period, Melvin said. About 3,000 CLEAR-TV volunteers in 33 states monitored the content of primetime programs and recorded their sponsors.
“CLEAR-TV gave ample notice of its intentions to Mennen and Clorox.… We asked them not one time, not two times, but three times not to sponsor programs with high incidence of sex, violence, and anti-Christian stereotyping.… But they ignored our requests,” he said.
CLEAR-TV objected to Mennen’s advertising on ABC’s “A Man Called Hawk”; CBS’s “The Equalizer” and “Tour of Duty”; and NBC’s “Dream Street,” “Miami Vice,” and “Midnight Caller.”
The group cited Clorox for ads on “Dream Street” and “Miami Vice”; ABC’s “Gideon Oliver”; CBS’s “Knot’s Landing,” and movies Trouble in Paradise and Amityville.
CLEAR-TV, begun in 1986, includes 1,600 Christian leaders, including 70 denominational heads from Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox groups. The coalition is chaired by Melvin; Donald Wildmon of the Tupelo-based American Family Association serves as executive director. This is the group’s second boycott call. Two years ago, it targeted Mazda Corporation and Noxell Company.
Mennen and Clorox defended their advertising decisions, both companies citing prescreening programs used to help maintain set standards for buying air time. “We believe the American public will understand the position we are taking and recognize that opinions may differ regarding acceptable programs,” a Mennen spokesman said.
“There is no indication that the shows cited did not meet our standards,” said Fred Reicker, spokesman for Clorox. However, Reicker said Clorox will review their screening reports. He declined to speculate about the boycott’s potential effect on sales. The boycott announcement drew national media attention and sparked criticism from groups such as People for the American Way (PAW).
“Past Wildmon boycotts have failed miserably at the checkout counter, and I expect this latest effort will fail as well,” said PAW’s president, Arthur J. Kropp. He said the group is “way out of step with the tastes of the American public.”
Melvin disagrees, pointing to a recent consumer study as proof that the American public is ready for his group’s tactic. The study, by New York-based Oxtoby-Smith, indicates 68 percent of television viewers said that “it was a good idea for advertisers to stop advertising in programs some viewers found objectionable,” and 72 percent said that “it was a good idea for consumers not to buy products of advertisers in programs they found objectionable.”
Melvin rejects the notion his group “is on the prudish fringe of American tastes,” as critics such as Kropp have charged. He cites the broad scope of national religious leaders in the coalition.
Roman Catholic Bishop Stanislaus Brzana of Ogdensburg, New York, lists over 100 bishops nationwide who have endorsed CLEAR-TV. “We believe our cause will benefit not only our group but the whole country,” he said. “We certainly invite all people of good will, even those that are not in the church, to support our cause.”
Melvin said radio spots, advertisements in magazines and denominational newsletters, and a 30-minute TV segment to be aired on 60 Christian stations will be used to educate the public about the boycott.
By Joe Maxwell.
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