Utahn battles raunchy TV online

'CleanTV' site will let e-mailers file complaints

Published: Sunday, Feb. 8 2004 12:00 a.m. MST

As CBS and MTV continue to take heat from irate Super Bowl viewers over Janet Jackson's breast exposure last Sunday, a Utahn wants to help stoke the fires of discontent over TV obscenity at home and nationwide.

Steven DeVore, an entrepreneur whose past ventures include a yet-to-be released feature-length film on the Book of Mormon and lucrative mass distribution of audio books, said he plans to launch a new Web site on March 1 dubbed "CleanTV."

He decided to enter the fray over deteriorating network television standards after top leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to which he belongs, urged their members to get personally involved last fall during the faith's semiannual general conference.

Elder M. Russell Ballard challenged Latter-day Saints to "stand up and say enough is enough, and recommended that we send e-mails to TV stations and advertisers," DeVore remembers, in the belief that if enough people speak up, things will change. That, coupled with admonitions by LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley and other leaders to shun degrading media, "just kind of got me thinking."

When he searched the Internet for groups that actively oppose raunchy TV, he found a few targeting major networks and the Federal Communications Commission, but nothing that got to what he believes is the real change agent — local television stations and advertisers. He says they're analogous to the "clay feet" of the colossus described in the biblical book of Daniel, and he sees them as the "weak point" that the networks and major corporate advertisers rest on.

Local station affiliates are "paid to run network programming, and at same time they allocate spots for local advertising. They're able to take the ratings that network programs bring in and charge local advertisers to advertise on those ratings."

DeVore said his Web site — www.cleantv.net — will be configured so disgruntled viewers can pressure local stations and their advertisers with a few keystrokes, rather than navigating the "cumbersome and confusing" maze he said he encountered trying to register individual complaints on several other Web sites.

The e-mail program lets users select the names of stations, networks and both local and national advertisers, then simultaneously send them personalized e-mails "through the simple click of a submit button." According to the Web site, the e-mail will: "identify the shows the advertiser sponsored; highlight the specific offensive material in the shows; ask them to stop supporting the offensive programming; and tells them you will not purchase their products or services as long as they support the programming."

DeVore said he's now gathering volunteers from across the country who are willing to serve as "program monitors" charged with logging program content and getting residents in their areas involved in the e-mail campaign. After last week's Super Bowl incident, DeVore wrote a column about his efforts that was posted online in Meridian Magazine, a Web site geared toward Latter-day Saints. In the days since, he said he has received more than 100 e-mails from people across the country who logged on to his nearly completed CleanTV Web site and expressed interest in volunteering.

If TV stations and advertisers don't respond to the e-mail campaign, DeVore said, "we'll organize picketing" at the local locations. "We're looking at 280-plus media markets across the U.S. If you get this going, the affiliates will begin to put pressure on the networks."

His quest began shortly after hearing LDS leaders, when he focused on programming being aired on KSL-TV. Though the station made headlines when it refused to air the controversial sitcom "Coupling," DeVore said his survey of network TV found NBC, of which KSL is an affiliate, led the pack in offensive language and situations. He put up a Web site focused on KSL's programming.

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