DEAR ABBY: I respectfully disagree with Howard Childress, whose letter appeared in a recent column. Mr. Childress maintained that sex, violence and bad language on TV are merely reflections of society and do not really influence the viewers.
If he were right, advertising agencies across the nation would be out of business.
Through those ad agencies, U.S. advertisers are spending billions (that's with a "B") per year to influence viewers to buy their products and services. They know how much television influences viewers; they have tested it many times!
Abby, imagine a dialogue between a concerned viewer and a TV executive. It might go something like this:
CONCERNED VIEWER: Mr. Television Executive, your shows have too much sex, violence and bad language in them. They're a bad influence on our young viewers.
TV EXECUTIVE: Our shows just reflect society; we don't really influence viewers. They will do what they want, no matter what we put no TV.
VIEWER: Fine, Mr. Executive. I want to buy a minute of advertising on one of your prime-time shows. How much will that cost?
EXECUTIVE: We can let you have a minute of prime-time advertising for just $100,000.
VIEWER: What? $100,000! Why so much?
EXECUTIVE: Because we reach so many households and so many potential buyers of your products and services. We know we have great influence with our advertising; we've tested it.
VIEWER: Wait a minute. Are you telling me that sex, violence and bad language don't influence your viewers, but your advertising influences your viewers so much that you are going to charge me $100,000 per minute for it?
EXECUTIVE: Yes. That's exactly what I'm telling you.
VIEWER: Well, I think I'll find another way to spend my money. -- KEN LEINWEBER, WILLINGBORO, N.J.
DEAR MR. LEINWEBER: I was inundated with letters from readers who disagreed with Howard Childress. For a sample, read on:
DEAR ABBY: Although a regular reader, I have never written before. But I had to respond to Howard Childress about the media reflecting rather than setting the standards, values and trends of society.
He is right, of course. But the media are not off the hook. The human condition has always included a base nature. In the name of money, the media are pandering to that nature.
There will always be a market for trash. Media leaders could and should use their positions of power and influence to reflect the best in us. When they choose to reflect the worse, a dirty atmosphere is created, which adds to the downward spiral of morals and values we now see. The media certainly contribute to this spiral.
If you print this, you are welcome to use my name. -- JONATHAN ROTH, PLANO, TEXAS