Monday, June 28, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) — Pfizer’s Kaki Hinton scheduled a lunch five years ago with executives at nine other corporations, all frustrated by the scarcity of family-oriented TV programs on which they felt comfortable placing their company’s commercials.

What might have been nothing more than a gripe session instead became the birth of a group, the Family Friendly Programming Forum, that can claim a real impact on the kind of shows that the major broadcast networks air.

The forum provided seed money to help develop seven programs on the networks’ fall schedules — four holdovers and three new series.

“I think we’ve turned around attitudes,” said Bill McCarron, co-chairman of the forum with Ms. Hinton. “Every network talks about family-oriented programming now. Five years ago they were afraid to.”

At that time, broadcast networks were nervous about seeming old-fashioned compared to cable outlets that had fewer content restrictions, Ms. Hinton said.

The advertisers who founded the forum — including Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg, IBM, Sears and Coca-Cola — had no idea how to promote alternatives until Jamie Kellner, then chief executive of the WB network, suggested the executives read prospective scripts and help finance ones they believed families could watch together.

The WB submitted nine scripts that first year, the only network to participate. This year, the forum, which has grown to include 40 companies, reviewed 51 scripts sent in by ABC, CBS, NBC and the WB, Ms. Hinton said. Thirty-seven scripts have received money, generally $45,000 to $75,000.

Mr. Kellner understood the initial reluctance.

“The tendency to not want to let advertisers into your business was always there in the network culture,” he said.

The WB learned the value of family-friendly programs through the success of “7th Heaven,” which has done as well as other, more publicized shows.

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