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.
"It puzzled me in the sense that the church owns the station, yet it was the worst one on the air, but they're talking in conference about how we need to" oppose it. He began sending daily reports on what the station was airing to members of the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve.
"Only two of them opted out not to receive them. Their reaction was shock as to what was being broadcast on NBC. These good men who don't have the time to sit down and watch TV, but the stuff that is on there is 10 times worse than what was shown on Super Bowl Sunday."
For example, DeVore noted the season premiere of the prime-time NBC sitcom "Friends," which focused on a birthday cake for a baby featuring male anatomy. He said he was thinking "if we're going to win this war, we've got to start with ourselves. But I understand the political sensitivities, too."
So he called some other local station managers, who reminded him that "KSL is the ratings leader in this market. . . . If you want anyone to change, go to KSL first."
Shortly thereafter, DeVore said he received "a phone call" from someone he declined to identify "that basically asked me to back off" pinpointing KSL. "When I asked why, they said, 'Things are in the works.' "
At that point, DeVore said he "decided to focus on it nationally. I told them if you want change, it has to happen in this market with you guys. I said, 'I'm not going to pick on them. I'm a good member of the church, so I'll just make them part of the mix.' "
DeVore is funding the project at this point, though he said he just completed the paperwork required for nonprofit status with the Internal Revenue Service. His son, a recent Brigham Young University graduate, is helping him put the Web site together, he said.
He knows LDS leaders are "aware of it. I can't say they support it or don't. I just know they are aware of it."
"I firmly believe media (shapes) culture. Where you have a small segment that's not really mainstream that controls media, (it's) very edgy and not a reflection of society, but give it five years."
Young people who lack role models find them on TV, DeVore said."They adopt the values and morals portrayed there, and those become expressed in lifestyle choices and patterns. I think it's very destructive to society as a whole."