News - July 1996

Gay group blasts new television ratings process

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) released a letter June 12 to Motion Picture Association of America executive Jack Valenti, who is leading the effort to develop for television the same type of rating system he created for movies.

In the letter, GLAAD expressed deep concerns over Valenti's own admission to the New York Times that he has already spoken with conservative extremists about the new system while excluding lesbian and gay groups.

The television ratings process, which would work in concert with the "V-chip," is being drafted by a committee of entertainment industry insiders, headed by Valenti. GLAAD is concerned that leading conservatives are being given undue influence in the ratings process, while the gay community is being held at a considerable distance. GLAAD has issued a request for a meeting with Mr. Valenti to discuss inclusion in the television ratings process and to press Valenti for details on how his committee will deal with lesbian and gay content and images on television.

"GLAAD is distressed that Mr. Valenti will be pressured by fundamentalist groups that clearly want to control what Americans watch on television," said William Waybourn, managing director of GLAAD. A ratings guide, published by the arch conservative Media Research Center, is cited by Waybourn as an example of "extremist propaganda being used to influence Valenti and his associates." Waybourn added, "Media Research Center head Brent Bozell is a professional media terrorist who would wash the nation's television screens of lesbian and gay images or of any diversity whatsoever."

In its letter, GLAAD also expressed growing fears about the consequences of pressure from extremist and fundamentalist groups such as Bozell's. GLAAD warned that television programs not approved of by Bozell and his group might be buried in weak timeslots, or even censored by the nation's television networks, robbing Americans of a broad spectrum of programming.

"This is a battle to defend free speech in an obvious all-out assault on the American principle of freedom of expression," Waybourn said. "A biased rating system, based on Bozell's hateful lies and his group's transparent political agenda, will be devastating, particularly at a time when the entertainment industry is just beginning to deal in an honest and forthright manner with the real diversity which is America-including gay men and lesbians."

Although President Clinton endorsed the concept of a family viewing hour, and renewed his support for a ratings system in a speech on Tuesday, GLAAD is concerned that the ratings process continues to be shrouded in mystery. Keith Spicer, chairman of the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission voiced his concerns about Valenti's "hand-picked secret committee of fifteen people...developing a system for the world." [Daily Variety June 11, 1996]

GLAAD is the nation's Gay News Bureau and the only national lesbian and gay multimedia watchdog organization. GLAAD promotes fair, accurate, and inclusive representation as a means of challenging discrimination based on sexual orientation or identity.

For a copy of the letter that GLAAD sent to Motion Picture Association of America executive Jack Valenti, visit the GLAAD Web site at http://www.glaad.org.

©1996 Oasis Magazine. All Rights Reserved.