Watchdog group, howling over sex and violence on TV, urges viewers to turn set off

November 13, 1992|By Los Angeles Times

HOLLYWOOD — Vicki Riley is hoping that Friday the 13th is frightening for network television executives in more ways than one.

Ms. Riley, 31, is the main force behind the second annual "Turn Off the TV Day," a grass-roots nationwide effort that she hopes will show executives that viewers are fed up with what she describes as excessive sex and violence on television. She is chairwoman of the effort by a coalition of media watchdog groups to persuade people to express their disgust by doing anything other than turning on the television today.

"The networks have totally crossed the line of acceptability," Ms. Riley said from her Wilmington, Del., home. "They're just exploiting sex and violence. They're mocking traditional family values by showing people using profanity and [being] just plain disrespectful of each other."

Ms. Riley, a member of New York-based Morality in Media, had particularly harsh criticism for a recent episode of ABC's "Civil Wars" in which star Mariel Hemingway appeared nude, and for the sexual content in the recent miniseries "Danielle Steele's 'Jewels.' "

"I heard from a lot of family members and friends who said that was just going too far," Ms. Riley said.

Besides Morality in Media, other organizations participating in the boycott are the Michigan-based Americans for Responsible Television, the Georgia-based Christian Film and Television Commission, the Washington-based National Christian Association and the Mississippi-based American Family Association.

"We're fighting trickle-down decadence," said Betty Wien, a spokeswoman for Morality in Media. "People are agonizing in their living rooms, watching this one-eyed communications monster grow in their midst. TV is filled with sex, violence and vulgarity. Violence is unparalleled. It's not so much mirroring reality as changing reality."

Television executives laughed off the results of last year's "Turn Off the TV Day" on Oct. 30. One official said the boycott had no effect at all on ratings, while a CBS executive bragged that more people had turned on the set than had watched television on the same day the previous year.

Peter Christanthopolous, president of the Network Television Association, which represents ABC, CBS and NBC, said Wednesday, " 'Turn Off the TV Day' had absolutely no effect on viewing levels in 1991, and we expect the same in 1992."

DTC He added, "Of course, viewers should express their opinions and act accordingly, but participating in national boycotts is an infringement on the network's First Amendment rights."

Ms. Riley called last year's effort a success, saying that an estimated 700,000 viewers kept their fingers off the "on" button.

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