The Family Friendly Programming Forum, a group comprising national advertisers whose mission is to ensure that broadcast TV networks offer appropriate family fare during prime time, has redefined its sometimes woolly interpretation of the phrase "family friendly."
Dawn Jacobs, co-chair of the forum, and VP-advertising, Johnson & Johnson, said the definition will broaden to include shows of, "broad multi-generational appeal that reflect real life, and a diversity of audiences-such as nontraditional family groups."
For the first time in the group's seven-year history, UPN and Fox submitted scripts for pilot series, believing they might have a shot at scoring funding under the new definition. The forum invests some $3 million annually to develop promising pilots.
"The perception was that it was `Leave it to Beaver.' We do have to have shows that people want to watch," Ms. Jacobs said. "If you asked people to define [family friendly], they'd say something that has no violence, no sexual references, something that has to be morally uplifting. ... That is not as relevant to today's viewer."
Kaki Hinton, also a co-chair of the group and VP-advertising services for Pfizer Consumer Group, said, "Family-friendly programming doesn't mean sanitized content. Families can deal with issues like sex and drugs but the issues need to be dealt with responsibly."
The group considered 61 scripts for the new season and funded 16, including ABC's "Commander-in-Chief"; UPN's "Everybody Hates Chris"; CBS's "Old Christine"; and WB's "Related."
The ad group will gather this week in Los Angeles for its annual symposium attended by advertisers, broadcast-network executives and producers.
Last year, the forum stumbled into controversy when it helped fund the NBC show "Father of the Pride." After the upfront presentations it became clear that what started out as a family-friendly script from DreamWorks Television had taken a decidedly raunchy turn. The show was quickly canceled.
Association of National Advertisers President-CEO Bob Liodice said that in the seven years the group has been in operation, he's seen a marked improvement in the balance of shows on the air: "Family-friendly programming is good business for all involved."
Melissa Caldwell, director of research at the Parents TV Council, a lobbying group, disagreed. "The networks haven't put enough priority into creating shows that are family friendly. `Everybody Loves Raymond' and `Joan of Arcadia' were great family shows on CBS. They're not coming back. With The WB and `Seventh Heaven,' it's almost as if they're ashamed of it."
Fox's Sunday-night lineup of "Family Guy," "American Dad" and "The War at Home" includes content that is highly objectionable for family viewing, Ms. Caldwell said. The Parents TV Council is reserving judgment on the fall season until it has reviewed a few episodes.
ShariAnn Brill, VP-director of programming, Carat, noted that beyond the scripted realm there are several feel-good reality shows on schedules this year, including ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" and NBC's "Three Wishes."
"Advertisers are always going to be careful with the types of shows they associate with," said Ms. Brill.