October 1993 – Supporters of AFA have handed ABC and NYPD Blue producer Steven Bochco an embarrassing, humiliating defeat in their efforts to bring softcore pornography into the homes of Americans. Donald E. Wildmon, president of AFA, says that 32 ABC affiliates publicly announced they would not air the new ABC series. And it was expected that the number would increase prior to the airing of the initial episode on September 21. (AFA Journal went to press on September 7.)
In addition, ABC was having extreme trouble securing sponsors for the program. “The advertising spots will probably be filled with free movie ads and a handful of buyers of distressed merchandise, paying as little at 10% of the normal rate,” Wildmon said. He said he expects ABC to lose an estimated $2 million in potential advertising revenue each time the program is aired.
Most affiliates reported more complaints about this program than any other program in history. Even stations in smaller cities reported having between five and 10 thousand contacts asking them not to show the program.
Such a large number of affiliates refusing to air a network program because of content is unprecedented in the history of television. Wildmon said that tremendous response and involvement by AFA supporters was the reason for the victory. Nearly every ABC affiliate reported the largest protest of any program they ever aired.
“This defeat has to be humiliating and embarrassing for ABC, and especially for Bochco,” he stated. Bochco had said he wanted to push the limits of television farther than they had ever been, including nude sex, extreme violence and language never used on broadcast TV.
As of September 7, the following ABC affiliates had stated they would not carry NYPD Blue’s softcore pornography on their stations: Sitka, AK; Fayetteville, AR; Ft. Smith, AR; Jacksonville, FL; Tallahassee, FL; Panama City, FL; Augusta, GA; Savannah, GA; Columbus, GA; Topeka, KS; Wichita, KS; Louisville, KY; Monroe, LA; Bowling Green, KY; Salisbury, MD; Grand Rapids, MI; Biloxi, MS; Meridian, MS; Jackson, MS; Tupelo/West Point, MS; Omaha, NE; Albuquerque, NM; Youngstown, OH; Toledo, OH; Lawton, OK; Myrtle Beach/Florence, SC; Greenville, SC/Asheville, NC; Abilene, TX; Amarillo, TX; El Paso, TX; Laredo, TX; Tyler, TX.
Wildmon said that in many cities where ABC affiliates are located individuals were calling businesses which advertise on the affiliate and asking them to pull their advertising. “The local affiliates which are carrying NYPD Blue are intent on bringing softcore pornography into the homes in their community. Since they will not be making money on NYPD Blue because of a lack of sponsors, it is the money they make from the sponsors of the other programs that make it possible for them to air NYPD Blue,” Wildmon said.
AFA suggests that individuals watch the local affiliate, secure sponsors, make a list of the names, addresses and phone numbers of those businesses advertising on the local affiliate, then distribute the list among friends, church members, family, etc. Encourage these individuals to call the businesses and ask that they pull their advertising from the local ABC affiliate.
After the sponsors are identified, AFA encourages individuals to boycott the local ABC affiliate.
Stuart Kellogg, general manager of WAPT in Jackson, Mississippi, expressed an opinion shared by man: “The show is very well-produced, but it’s a shame that the producers insist on trashing it up with unnecessary filth. The sex scene is still too explicit and the language is not fit for free over-the-air TV.”
ABC informed their affiliates that the kind of material aired in the first episode of NYPD Blue would be contained in further episodes.
AFA supporters understood that if ABC was intent on airing the program, they could not prevent the network from doing so. But they could make ABC pay a huge loss in money and prestige. “Those who got involved did their job extremely well. It could be that history will record this as the turning point in cleaning up TV,” Wildmon said.
(See Don’s column here.)