But was weapon relinquished too soon to effect real change?

If you want to do something to rid television of profanity, sex, and violence, switch off your set, write protest letters to network officials, or join a PTA lobby. But if you really want to do something, pull together a large group of people (three to five million will do), get backing from the Moral Majority, and plan a boycott. Threaten to stop buying products of companies that sponsor offending programs—and watch the fur fly.

That’s just what Donald B. Wildmon, founder of the Coalition for Better Television, did. He proposed a one-year boycott of products from sponsors of television shows marked offensive by 4,000 volunteer monitors during a three-month period (CT, Mar. 13, 1981, p. 74).

The monitors produced a list of sponsors—but Wildmon never used it to effect his boycott. One week before the scheduled announcement of his list, Wildmon met with advertisers in Memphis and made an eleventh-hour decision to hold off on the boycott.

Justifying the boycott, Wildmon, a United Methodist clergyman, had said, “Our values, our principles, our morals—those things which are very dear and meaningful to us—have been ridiculed, belittled, mocked, and insulted by the networks. We feel the boycott will be criticized very loudly by the networks and the companies, but that’s nothing new to us. The only thing that matters to them is money and we’re ready to see the boycott through to prove our point.”

Wildmon’s bark had some bite. The National Federation for Decency, which he founded, has successfully pressured television sponsors in the past. Last year CBS lost $5 million from worried advertisers who were warned about a film that contained an incestuous relationship.

Advertisers ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.