Payoff will be family fare

TV: A group of advertisers is forking over big bucks to help WB create programs for `all ages.'

August 18, 1999|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

An association of national corporations with big TV advertising budgets, concerned over what they say is a lack of all-ages programming on network television, will be handing over money to the WB network to promote the development of family-friendly series.

The Family Friendly Programming Forum, a year-old group whose only action so far has been the establishment of an awards program recognizing family-oriented television, announced the agreement last week. Although officials would not say how much money was involved, the group's founder said she hoped it would be enough to develop as many as eight scripts.

"The WB said to us, essentially, `Why don't you put your money where your mouth is?' " says Andrea Alstrup, vice president of advertising for Johnson & Johnson, one of 11 companies contributing to the development fund.

Alstrup stressed that the forum has no desire to produce the scripts. Who gets the money, what constitutes family-friendly television and whether any of the resulting scripts actually end up on the network will be up to WB.

"We do not want to become a production arm for the networks," Alstrup said from the company's headquarters in New Brunswick, N.J. "We don't want to get that engrossed in it. All we want to do is encourage people to be creative in their writing."

WB's current schedule is heavy with such shows as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Dawson's Creek," which are geared toward a teen and young adult audience. But the network's highest-rated show is "Seventh Heaven," which chronicles the lives of a minister and his family and is routinely praised as one of the most family-oriented series on broadcast TV.

"The type of contemporary, youth-oriented and family-friendly TV programming that forum members desire is consistent with our targeted strategy," WB CEO Jamie Kellner said in a press release announcing the fund, "and we are hopeful this effort will yield programs our partners will be proud to sponsor and help us promote."

Of the forum's 30 members, 11 are contributing to the fund, said Alstrup. WB, she added, is the first network to approach the group about working together to find programming suitable for the entire family. "That doesn't mean we wouldn't consider doing other things in other areas with other networks," Alstrup said. "But they were the first network that brought us something as specific as this."

WB officials also agreed that any scripts the network doesn't produce will be made available to the other networks, Alstrup said.

Gretchen Briscoe, a spokeswoman for forum member Procter & Gamble, said the goal is to get more series on the air that companies who target consumers of all ages can feel comfortable with.

"What we want are entirely new shows," Briscoe said. "There are some really good examples [of family-oriented programming] out there right now, but we want more choices.

"It's going to take a concerted effort, and advertisers cannot do it alone," she added. "It definitely takes networks playing an active role."

A.I.R. awards

The folks at the March of Dimes are gearing up for their third annual Achievement In Radio awards, slated for Nov. 9 at the Holiday Inn Select in Timonium. For now, they're looking for entries in the competition, bits of radio programming and related business that have aired on a Baltimore-area radio station (including college stations) between Sept. 1, 1998, and Sept. 10, 1999.

Entries are being sought in the areas of news, advertising, on-air talent, interviews, public affairs, programming and promotions. They should be sent or delivered by Sept. 14 to the A.I.R. Awards, c/o The March of Dimes, 175 Ostend St., Suite C, Baltimore, 21230. There is a $25 fee ($10 for students) per entry.

Last year's A.I.R. Awards raised $32,000 for the March of Dimes, Central Maryland Chapter.

Inspires poetry

For a quarter-century now, Don Scott has been a fixture at WJZ, Channel 13, first as a weekend anchor and reporter, most recently as co-host (with Marty Bass) of "Morning Edition" and (with Kellye Lynn) the station's noon news.

So what does he get for his troubles? How about this little poem, penned by Dotti (who didn't provide a last name) from Bowleys Quarters and delivered to WJZ via fax:

You have touched our lives with your expert finesse ...

We've watched through the years your ever changing tress ...

Your contagious laugh and your TV rapport ...

Have left your audiences wanting for more ...

Happy Anniversary Don Scott -- Celebrate with flair ...

And remember your viewers will always be there.

Hey, when was the last time someone wrote you a poem for staying in one place 25 years?

If `Shadows' made you smile

Fans of "Dark Shadows," the vampiric soap opera that was quite the fad in the late '60s, can take a behind-the-scenes gander at the series and its Gothic underpinnings with a video scrapbook being released next month.

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