SAFE (AND DULL) AT TPP

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With the growing demand for television programming, the new production partnership of several major advertisers is a scrap of good news. If those 500 channels ever do show up at the dinner table, there had better be enough to feed them.

But don't expect gourmet fare from this new venture. The mission of the Television Program Partners, which includes such giant network TV time buyers as AT&T, General Motors and McDonald's, is to have a hand in holding down the costs of programming, not improving its quality. (Unless, of course, it's in the area of "safe" ingredients. "Content" is a stated concern of this group; since Clorox Co. is also a member, that means no sex and violence. Clorox was the subject of a boycott by the Rev. Donald Wildmon's Tupelo, Miss.-based Christian Leaders for Responsible Television.)

As one executive of TPP said: "When producers hear we are representing advertisers, they come in thinking this is the `Hallmark Hall of Fame' and that they're going to get [paid] a premium. ... [But] it's just the opposite."

So what are TV viewers going to be getting from the partnership?

Just what TV needs: another inexpensive-to-produce awards show. As if we didn't have enough Everybody's Choice Awards, the first program out of TPP's pantry is "The World Music Awards."

And then, also targeted to the ABC network, the "Women of the Year Awards." Then, maybe, an annual special based on the Sports Emmy Awards.

Talk about table scraps.

Advertisers who are committed to production costs first and programming quality second-or third-only make us hunger for those specials from Hallmark even more.

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