PTC launches pre-emptive strike at Gossip Girl


CW Network is planning to air an episode of “Gossip Girl” next week, 11/9/09, that has the Parents Television Council up in arms, based on storyline tips that point to content PTC feels inappropriate for teenaged viewers. The organization is urging CW affiliates to use their statutory right as licensees to pre-empt the program.

The program is expected to feature some sort of three-way romantic encounter between some of the show’s major characters.

“To include a storyline like this on a program that is expressly targeted to impressionable teenagers is reckless and irresponsible. We are asking each CW Network affiliate to use their common sense and preempt this episode,” said PTC President Tim Winter, who wrote a letter to CW Network President Dawn Ostroff and to each affiliate.

PTC has long had problems with this edgy program and claims that CW’s promotion of it belies its claim that it is aimed at a mature audience.

He said the program’s history has been bad enough, and asked, “But will you now be complicit in establishing a precedent and expectation that teenagers should engage in behaviors heretofore associated primarily with adult films?”

Winter reminded affiliates that as licensees, they will be the ones who bear liability if the program is found to be indecent. And he promised that PTC will be watching it very closely, and will be prepared to launch campaigns to get advertisers to abandon the program and for the FCC to take action.

RBR-TVBR observation: We suspect that CW is well aware of the rules and regulations on what is and what is not permissible for a primetime, non-safe harbor broadcast. But one thing is for sure – free publicity such as this, given by PTC free of charge, is only likely to enlarge CW’s audience.

Although we understand why PTC would like to snap into action ahead of the broadcast, the PR function it can’t help but provide by so doing makes the exercise somewhat counterproductive. Perhaps it would have been better to quietly contact each affiliate rather than do so publicly. However, it is of course entirely possible that any one of the affiliates could have made the matter public, so it may not have mattered.

It will of course be interesting to see PTC’s review of this episode and learn about its plans in the aftermath.

BTW, showing a certain behavior in a dramatic setting does not constitute an endorsement of the behavior. We should not expect young women to run right out and hunt for a three-way experience simply because they see it on TV, any more than we should expect them to move into a cohabitation arrangement with seven diminutive miners, or to run away from home while a twister is on the way, or to sneak off at night in a magic pumpkin to dance with the prince just because they saw those behaviors somewhere.