Advocacy Groups and the Entertainment Industry

By Michael Suman; Gabriel Rossman | Go to book overview

16
Dealing with Advocacy Groups at ABC

Alfred R. Schneider

The role of special interest groups in the television programming process became an issue during the development of the medium in the 1960s and 1970s. Over time each of the participants in the broadcasting business--the station, the network, the advertiser and his or her agency, the screening service, the program producer--faced off and sometimes found an accommodation with one or more of the many special interest groups that tried to exert influence.

Those of us who were responsible for the review of programs prior to broadcast tried to remain neutral and objective as our nation experienced significant social and political change in the 1960s and 1970s. During this tumultuous period we were responsible for putting out ideas that were discussed and digested, accepted or rejected. It was not an easy job. Why did we not show more moments of religious observance such as grace at meals or prayers before bed? Why did we not show that homosexuality was a perversion and adultery a sin? Why did we always show big corporations as evil and taking advantage of the common man? Why were most of the victims that were portrayed women? Why were there no positive black or Latino role models? When were we going to stop showing the stereotypical evil Arab in white sheets and burnoose? Why was the killer always a psychopath and mental illness depicted as leading to criminality? Why were the Polish people in Winds of War portrayed as participants in carrying out Nazi atrocities in the concentration camps? Why couldn't Petula Clark kiss Harry Belafonte?

The first special interest advocate I encountered was not a group but an individual, a most influential individual, Isabelle Goldenson, wife of the president of the American Broadcasting Company. She objected to jokes that Jerry Lewis, on a comedy variety show in 1963, directed at her husband, Leonard Goldenson. She felt that these jokes were embarrassing and demeaning to the struggling president. On Yom Kippur eve, a Saturday night in October, I was told by Oliver Treyz, president of the ABC Television Network, to use a switch to block any further "Lennie" references that Lewis might utter. That night I believe that I missed one

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