Art & Commerce: Primetime Agenda

And now a word from our sponsors the Family Friendly Programming Forum
Despite the hundreds of TV channels catering to every conceivable programming niche, despite the recently adopted TV program rating system and despite widespread concerns about the role the media play in shaping the lives of our young people, there is today a huge unmet marketplace need.
It’s the need for “family friendly” television–shows that parents and kids can enjoy watching together. Sadly, such programs are a seriously endangered species. Classics like The Cosby Show–creative, uplifting and highly entertaining–are rarely found in today’s TV schedule.
Now some might think that family TV viewing is a relic of the ’50s, when the family gathered ’round the RCA to view Father Knows Best, Leave It to Beaver and My Three Sons.
In our view, however, there’s a significant consumer appetite and an enormous advertiser need for shows that appeal to multigenerational audiences. Their absence is the result of a vicious circle of a problem, with no one clearly to blame. The argument goes as follows: Family TV programs don’t draw big ratings. Therefore, advertisers won’t support them. Therefore, TV networks can’t afford to air them.
Yet recent history proves just the opposite. Home Improvement was a family-friendly show that drew top ratings and premium ad prices. We’re convinced that more programs like this could be on the air today if the circle were broken–if talented writers, producers and network heads were induced to try harder to create hit family-friendly programs.
And who better to break the circle than a group of advertisers? A year ago, we formed the Family Friendly Programming Forum, which now includes 32 companies that market some of the world’s best-known brands.
Individually, and as a group, we are encouraging the production community to produce movies, series and documentaries, aired between 8 and 10 p.m., that are relevant to a broad audience and that the average parent would enjoy viewing together with a child.
Very importantly, we are taking these actions to achieve our goal:
– We are meeting with the heads of TV networks, studios and production companies to share our concerns.
– We are speaking out at industry conferences, meetings and forums.
– We are honoring outstanding family-friendly TV programs with a new tribute, the Family Program Awards, to be held on Sept. 9 in L.A.
– We are underwriting scholarships at university television studies departments to encourage student interest in family-friendly programming.
– Some members have established a sizable development fund to finance family-friendly TV scripts.
Lest anyone think we advocate censorship: We support a range of programming options and, in fact, will continue to advertise on shows with mature–even controversial–themes that are responsibly handled.
But as advertisers, as TV viewers, as members of American society, we are concerned about the TV imagery, themes and language to which our young people are exposed. We crave programs the whole family can enjoy together and we think American families do, too. The TV networks that address this need will find an appreciative audience and our support as well.