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TV watchdog urges advertisers to resist 'Temptation'

A TV watchdog group said on Monday it is urging America's 100 top brand-name companies not to advertise on Fox-TV's "Temptation Island" because of the "reality" show's "objectionable" content, in which scantily-clad beauties and hunks try to break up couples.

The move came after three big-name advertisers, Sears, Roebuck and Co., Quaker Oats Co. and Best Buy Co. Inc. said they had pulled their ads from the show, even though it is a ratings winner.

"This is the type of action that comes when advertisers take a look at what's on TV," said Mark Honig, executive director of the watchdog group Parents Television Council (PTC).

"There are lots of ratings winners, but shows are more than just ratings and advertisers are looking at content to see whether it's something the company wants to be associated with."

Sears, which said it is a member of a "family-friendly" advertising consortium, said it advertised during the first episode of "Temptation Island" on Jan. 10 only because it was a free "make-good" commercial to make up for a previously-paid ad on another Fox show. But "Temptation Island" was not the kind of program that fitted the Sears image, it said.

A spokesman for Fox -- a unit of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. -- said there had been no additional advertiser fallout after Sears, Quaker Oats and Best Buy.

"In 'reality' programming there's a certain amount of concern and advertiser fallout," said Fox spokesman Scott Grogin. "We understand that with a show that's edgy and controversial these three would say they don't want to be part of it."

Since it began three weeks ago, "Temptation Island" has become a runaway ratings hit. But, following a complaint from a Federal Communications Commission member, Fox promised not to promote it during such family-oriented fare as "The Simpsons" and "Malcolm in the Middle."

"We are sending a letter to advertisers urging them not to put dollars into this show," PTC's Honig said of "Temptation Island."

He said the non-religious, non-profit group, which has over 600,000 individual members across America, was preparing a warning letter about another Fox show, "Boston Public." The show, about teachers and teenagers at a Boston high school, airs in family viewing time, he said, "and its content is one of the worst for sexual situations and language."

"I guess some advertisers might be accused of promoting adultery," advertising executive Lisa Siewers said of the 'Temptation Island" flap.

"A lot depends on the watchdog groups and how long it takes them to get on the bandwagon and urge a boycott of advertisers," said Siewers, who specializes in national broadcasting at the New York ad agency, Hampel and Stefanides.

But ultimately, "advertisers listen to consumers," she told Reuters, and if the program is not right they won't advertise.

"Twenty years ago, I spent half my time watching shows and counting acts of violence, profanities or 'sexual' acts. If there were more than six in one show, we were out!"

This was what happened when a well-known pharmaceutical firm decided the ground-breaking police drama "Hill Street Blues" was not the kind of show that fit in with the company's image.

In the past, the PTC has urged advertisers not to promote World Wrestling Federation's "Smackdown" shows and another Fox drama, "Manchester Prep," which never saw the light of day.

A promotional clip for the drama about life at a fictitious New England prep school contained a scene in which two teenage girls discuss reaching a sexual climax while riding horses.

"That never made it on the air. I think Mr. Murdoch pulled it," said Honig, although he could not say whether it was a result of advertiser pressure.


unknown, Reuters. January 29, 2001

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