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National NOW Times >> Winter, 2001 >> Article

NOW Media Campaign Keeps Watch on Primetime Programming and Advertising

by Lisa Bennett-Haigney

NOW's Watch Out, Listen Up! media campaign, which began last February, is not over yet. Media monitors are already hard at work gathering data for an analysis of primetime programming and advertisements for a report to be issued at the beginning of 2001.

After rating the four major networks in a report released in May, NOW President Patricia Ireland and Los Angeles NOW Vice President Patty Balsama met with top FOX executives about cleaning up their act. New leadership at FOX appeared eager to raise the level of their primetime content. And NBC executives touted their network's top score in women-friendly and diverse programming.

However, it's been business as usual on television in the second half of the year, confirming NOW's decision to look again at the networks' primetime programming and to add a review of advertisements running during those programs.

At the beginning of November, FOX ran a two-hour special entitled "Surprise Wedding," wherein a group of women "ambushed" their boyfriends with a public proposal of on-the-spot marriage. The show was billed as a potential for televised humiliation if any of the men said no.

This summer many Olympic viewers were outraged as they watched the games on NBC and caught a Nike ad where an ax-wielding man chased a woman runner. NOW received numerous e-mails and calls about the ad from outraged women and men, as did Nike and NBC.

"While the Olympics show how far women have come as athletes, the Nike ad serves to remind them that they are still potential targets of violence," Ireland stated on the day NBC decided to pull the ad. "Why can't women sit down to watch the competition of accomplished female athletes without being subjected to menace and mayhem? Why do network and sales executives think the degradation of women is acceptable as entertainment and marketing strategy?"

NBC also announced plans for a program called "Chains of Love" in which a woman would be chained to five men 24 hours a day until she narrows them down to the one she wants to date.

Continuing to hold television accountable, NOW is monitoring the new fall shows, as well as movies and specials during the November sweeps month. Included in this second report will be the fledgling WB and UPN networks, as well as the portrayal of women in advertising. As with the previous analysis, NOW monitors will take note of stereotypes, sexual exploitation and violence, while looking for diversity, positive images and social responsibility.

"Television viewers have the power to keep offensive images off the airwaves," Ireland said. "The Watch Out, Listen Up! campaign represents the voices of people who want to take back control of the media from those who are only concerned with the bottom line."

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