The question isn't whether these concerns are warranted. The question is, what are we going to do about it? Many of talk TV's critics believe that the best solution is to dry up advertising funds for these programs. I believe that responsible advertisers must resist the clarion call of critics who demand complete and immediate withdrawal-because we have a better chance of influencing TV content by staying in.
If we simply throw up our hands, take away our dollars and absolve ourselves of responsibility for what these shows put on the air, then all we're doing is turning a blind eye to an increasingly serious problem.
A better approach is to work constructively with producers to improve TV programming, which is what we at Procter & Gamble are doing. Earlier this year, we encouraged the producers and distributors of all the talk shows we sponsor to raise their standards and improve content. We outlined what we consider to be appropriate content and we made it clear only those shows that live up to these standards will receive our advertising support.
There are some shows, of course, that simply refuse to change. We recently pulled our support from four of these shows. And over the past year, we declined to advertise on nearly a thousand individual episodes we felt didn't measure up to our standards.
But we are seeing evidence that our approach, our willingness to talk and work with producers, is beginning to have a positive effect. One major producer, for example, pulled five episodes from a popular talk show's lineup and has strengthened its own internal controls to continue improving program quality.
That's only one producer, of course. And P&G is only one advertiser. But it's a step in the right direction. The key now is for more national advertisers to take this same, constructive approach.
I believe there are three things that advertisers should do to have the greatest impact on the quality of programming.
First, establish clear, candid lines of communication with producers. Advertisers need to be clear about their own standards and producers need to be up front about the kind of content they need to remain competitive.
Second, we need to support those programs that deal responsibly with controversial subjects.
Third, we need to stick to our guns. If a show continues to air content that we feel uncomfortable sponsoring, then we need to make good on our pledge to withdraw.
I feel strongly that this constructive approach is the best way, over the long term, to improve program quality. It's the best way for advertisers to preserve our access to daytime audiences while fulfilling our responsibility to the public interest. If we immediately give up and walk away, we surrender our ability to make a difference, which would be the worst thing we could do. I know we can do better than that.