The push to clean up network television has intensified, with religious and political leaders demanding a decrease in violent programming.

A broad coalition called Christian Leaders for Responsible Television (CLRTV) has announced it will closely monitor this year’s fall television season. “If we do not see a 35 percent reduction of sex, profanity, and violence, and an immediate end of anti-Christian bias in programming, we will choose one or more advertisers and ask our constituents for a massive economic boycott,” said CLRTV executive director Donald Wildmon.

CLRTV is made up of about 1,600 leaders, including the heads of some 70 Protestant denominations; more than 100 Catholic bishops; 21 United Methodist bishops; 13 Episcopal bishops; 16 Lutheran bishops; 21 heads of state Southern Baptist conventions; more than 200 Christian broadcasters; and presidents of Christian colleges.

Billy Melvin, chairman of the CLRTV board and executive director of the National Association of Evangelicals, said grassroots concern over the deterioration of television programming abounds. “We believe we have the best chance we’ve ever had to impact the medium,” he said, “to change the face of television programming.”

In April, representatives of CLRTV met with executives from ABC, CBS, and NBC to express their concerns about what they term “the moral pollution” of network television. “There was no indication from any of the networks that they intend to change anything they are doing,” Wildmon said.

CLRTV has also asked program sponsors to cooperate in their effort. The group met with advertising executives in Chicago, urging them to be more responsible in the sponsorship of network programming. Wildmon said CLRTV has alerted sponsors and television networks of its intention to boycott companies that sponsor offending television programs this fall.

“We tried every reasonable approach we could try, and our pleas fell on deaf ears,” Wildmon said. “So now we are saying, ‘If money is the only language that is understood, we will speak the language of money.’ ”

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.) has proposed legislation to curb television violence. “We’re seeing too much violence on television for our own mental health, and particularly the mental health of our children,” Simon said at a news conference.

The senator has met with television industry representatives, visited television production facilities, and held congressional hearings on the issue. As a result, he introduced two bills. The first would allow broadcasting companies and trade associations to take joint action against television violence without violating federal antitrust laws. The second bill would direct the Federal Communications Commission to oversee a “definitive study” on television violence and report back to Congress within a year.

During his press conference, Simon referred to studies by the U.S. Surgeon General’s office, the National Institute of Mental Health, the U.S. Attorney General’s office, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, suggesting that television violence can promote aggressive behavior. “Television can appeal to the best or worst in us,” he said. “If we begin placing a little less emphasis on violence to attract viewers, perhaps the industry can begin placing more emphasis on positive influences.”

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