If you’re a typical Christian you probably have considered – at least once – selling or giving away your television set. You’ve become disgusted with the selection of shows, or frustrated with yourself for watching questionable content. You may be angry that your children are exposed to certain material. Maybe you’ve felt helpless about having any influence over what is aired.
You can have influence!
Here are five steps to take toward influencing what is broadcast on television:
1. Be selective in what you and your family members watch. Television is a business. Advertisers pay for the shows because viewers watch the shows and buy their products. Producers make the shows because viewers watch the shows and keep the advertisers paying the bills.
Those advertisers make their decisions about which shows to spend their money on based on ratings. This is determined by professional agencies that use scientific methods to determine what percentage of viewers are watching specific shows. If you don’t like or approve of a television show change the channel or turn off the set.
2. Complain in an effective way.* Too often we Christians are quick to form a national campaign against what we don’t like. More often we simply complain to one another. You may be unhappy with a show and know others are unhappy also. To be effective, let the advertisers know about it. But do so politely and as a local group, using an appropriate business letterhead.
When 500 members of a church in Auckland, New Zealand, or one hundred members in Suva, Fiji, write to notify a sponsoring manufacturer that members of their churches have agreed not to purchase his product as long as he sponsors an offensive show, the manufacturer will pay attention. He knows that if the group is unhappy, there are probably other groups as well that won’t buy his product. This means we will need to pay attention to commercials aired during a show and write down the sponsors’ names. Then we’ll have to research to learn the address of the corporate office and the CEO. And most important, we’ll need to take the time to pray about how to write in such a way that our message will be received.
3. Unite your efforts locally. We tend to think that a national campaign will be most effective. Often it works just the reverse. When Americans protested against the movie, “The Last Temptation of Christ” they created massive media attention across the entire country. Many in the movie and television industry believe that the movie would have flopped and quietly disappeared without those well publicized protests. They may be correct.
4. Affirm those who broadcast things you want kept on the air.* Protests are not enough. If you do like a show, let the sponsoring manufacturers and the television station know you like it. Most letters and phone calls they receive from television viewers are negative. When a sponsor receives positive feedback he pays attention. The rule of thumb: producers and advertisers calculate that each letter represents several hundreds of viewers.
The same is true of producers and network executives. Let them know which shows you like and why. Be specific.
5. Pray. Perhaps our most effective tool of influence is our least applied. Perhaps we are praying against those shows we disapprove. Are we praying for those that have positive qualities? There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Christians in the television industry trying to improve the selection and quality of programs that reach our homes. We can pray for them. They may not be able to keep all offensive content off the air. Yet when a Christian actress suggests to her director that alternate words would better communicate the story line, and therefore offensive words are not broadcast, she has been effective. When a Christian script writer gets his story accepted by a popular show’s producer, he will influence thousands of lives.
We will not reform the television industry easily. It won’t be accomplished this year. You and I can adopt a producer, an actor, or a writer – not necessarily a Christian. And we can pray regularly for him or her.
Our prayer groups can adopt a certain show. We can learn about it, about the people behind the camera as well as in front. We can pray for God’s Spirit to draw them unto Himself; we can pray for Christians to be hired to live godly lives inside the industry; we can pray for God’s conviction to constrain the decision makers; and we can pray for Christian viewers to do the responsible thing – whether it’s to change the channel or to send a letter to the sponsor.
We can make a difference.
HOW TO CONTACT THE DECISION MAKERS
Locating television, cable or satellite networks is often difficult, but not impossible. You might use a search engine on the Internet. Words to search for on the station’s or sponsor’s web site include: contact us; comments; feedback; about us, etc.
Once you’ve located the information, keep it handy so you can refer to it each time you want to make contact. Then share that contact information with others who might take action.
To locate corporations, if you don’t find them with a search engine on the Internet, call your local public library. A Reference Department librarian may look up the information you need. Or go there and ask for the appropriate reference books. You’ll find addresses and chief officers listed.
© Beverly Caruso