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Rebecca Hagelin / February 18, 2009

Nip, Tuck, No Thank You

A woman picks up an electric knife and saws off her own breast. A brother and sister having sex is the topic of a conversation. A man visits a “dominatrix” who regularly bites him during sexual encounters. And between such uplifting scenes, you and your kids are invited to visit your local child-friendly “Jack in the Box” hamburger fun spot who will then use a portion of the money you spend to pay for the sordid programming.

When companies like Jack in the Box advertise on television shows like “Nip/Tuck” which I’ve described above, it’s time for families to take their burger nights elsewhere.

If you ever wonder how such programming stays on television, well, it’s mainly because companies sponsor the shows. The trouble is, the vast majority of decent families don’t watch them, so when we go to dinner or buy products we simply don’t know that our money is often going to support garbage.

That’s why I have come to rely on the good people at the Parents Television Council http://www.ParentsTV.org to help me “follow the money”. I work hard to instill timeless values into my kids and it’s a tough battle. I certainly don’t expect restaurants that bill themselves as “family friendly” to undermine me. It would never, ever occur to most families that Jack in the Box - a restaurant named after a pre-school toy, for crying out loud - would sponsor the scummiest of the scum.

Recently the Parents Television Council (a non-profit, educational organization) made a live appeal at a Jack in the Box shareholders meeting to plead the case to change their ways. The director of the PTC Los Angeles Foothills Chapter, Michele Mac Neal, was on-hand to address the company executives. She said, “As a mother, I ask you today to end your sponsorship of crude television, and instead sponsor family-friendly television, coinciding with your corporate efforts in helping children within the community,” Mac Neal said.

““You must agree Madame Chairman that this media buying pattern is in conflict with your own corporate values. Please establish media guide lines that are reflective of all your good work such as The Jack in the Box Foundation which has helped children throughout the United States, by sponsoring events provided by the Big Brother Big Sister mentoring program.

“I am pleading with you on behalf of millions of Americans to adopt responsible advertising guidelines. I would like to let 1.3 million PTC members know Jack in the Box is joining the campaign to help clean up TV,” Mac Neal added.

That’s right - you heard it - The Parents Television Council is now 1.3 million members strong, and I urge you to add your voice to their numbers, too. We get what we pay for - and we also get what we put up with. I am convinced that if more decent parents took the time to let companies like Jack in the Box know “we ain’t puttin’ up or payin’ up for scum” then the companies would stop - it’s just a matter of dollars and cents (sense, too).

“Millions of parents are counting on Jack in the Box and other TV sponsors to realize that they play a fundamental role in keeping the most shocking, graphic and gratuitous material on the air; and that these types of shows contribute to a negative media culture for our children. Jack in the Box can change, and we urge them to do so,” says PTC President Tim Winter.

I find myself wondering: Aren’t some of the stockholders and officers of the corporations that spend billions on advertising parents too? Do they even know what’s going on themselves? According to sources at the Jack in the Box shareholders meeting, after Mac Neal testified the room was dead silent. It seems that many of the executives on hand were clueless and mortified to hear where their ad dollars were going.

This, though pathetic, is also encouraging, on one level. And it’s one reason why PTC hasn’t called for a boycott of the company- - they believe that now that the shareholders know the truth, there is great hope that Jack in the Box to do the right thing. There’s hope for other companies too. But that involves you and me "tuning in” to who and what entertainment our hard-earned money is going to support. Moms and dads should not put up with us and our kids being used in this manner - and we need to let the offenders know.

Tom Winter and the other great folks at PTC recently released a study about a different kind of media that also caught my attention. Winter explained that the group did an analysis of YouTube and discovered how easy it is to stumble across crude, “extremely graphic” and “harsh profanity”. Among young tween girls, for instance, two of the most popular searches on YouTube are for videos of the beloved “Hannah Montana” and “High School Musical”. But, parents beware: often on the same page as Hannah are crude spoofs and unrelated raunchy material. And, if kids search for videos and make even a small typo they often end up viewing highly objectionable videos created by folks determined to promote highly sexualized and crass behavior. The PTC website has information on how you can join the effort to encourage YouTube to adopt higher posting standards that protect our innocent kids. But you have to take responsibility, too. Don’t let your kids surf the net alone - and install your own internet filter if you haven’t done so. There are many great filters that take just a few seconds and keystrokes to download. (The one I use is from http://www.BSAFE.com.)

Maybe if parents understood the powerful impact that media has on the behavior of our children we would actually get a bit more serious about knowing what is going on and making our voices heard. The PTC website has loads of data that proves how media shapes both attitude and behavior, especially of youth. For instance, a new three-year study by the RAND corporation reveals what we parents have suspected in our guts all along: children with a high level of exposure to television shows with sexual content are “twice as likely to get pregnant or impregnate someone” as those who watch fewer such programs.

Parents Television Council can help equip you to fight back. Just go to www.ParentsTV.org click on “Join Us” or “Take Action”. You can also download Tim Winter’s “Entertainment Alert” video which provides the latest information and action steps on how you can affect the entertainment media. Membership is free and you can sign up for e-mail alerts to keep you informed, protect your family, and actually change the culture around you.  

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