Every year about this time the television industry unveils a new collection of cops, clowns, sex objects, heroic doctors, and affectionate animals before an increasingly disinterested public. But in recent times the real world has begun to intrude onto the network's fantasy island. Last September the new shows were mercifully delayed for several weeks by an actors' strike. And this year the approach of the new season has found the TV industry embroiled in a fight over prime-time sex and violence with the Coalition for Better Television (CBTV), a group led by some familiar faces of the New Right.
The ruckus started seven months ago when CBTV announced its plans to monitor the sex, violence, and profanity content of network shows and to organize a consumer boycott of companies that sponsor the programs found most offensive. The boycott has since been called off after Proctor and Gamble, the biggest buyer of TV ad time, agreed to quit sponsoring the shows on the CBTV hit list.
As would be expected, CBTV's campaign elicited a strong reaction from the network hierarchies. They called it censorship and, wrapping themselves in the First Amendment, they issued such lofty statements that one would never guess that something as mundane as their profit margins might be at stake. The network executives were joined at the barricades by a number of liberal political activists and church leaders, many of whom echoed the censorship charge and accused the TV crusaders of being a small group attempting to impose its will on the rest of the country.