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TV watchdog group calls off planned boycott of sponsors, but warns it remains ready for use

When the Coalition for Better Television (CBTV) speaks, TV advertisers listen. At least that's the way it appears following the CBTV's announcement that a number of advertisers, threatened with a boycott by CBTV members, have agreed to review or rewrite policies on sponsoring shows with excessive violence or sex.

The most immediate result was the sheathing of the boycott weapon. But the organization warned that the boycott could be unleashed in the future. Targets were to have been selected based on a three-month survey of prime time shows conducted for the CBTV by 4,500 volunteers.

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"Advertisers hear and share our concern," the Rev. Donald Wildmon, chairman of the group, says, adding that "95 percent genuinely share our concerns and are not simply afraid of a boycott."

Cal Thomas, vice-president of communications for the Moral Majority, a CBTV member, indicated the reason for the coalition's change lay in a series of meetings held last week between the coalition and the advertisers it was considering boycotting.

"We've had very positive talks," said Mr. Thomas, "several of the companies have pledged to reevaluate and rewrite their advertising policies, and we're delighted with their attitude."

The Rev. Mr. Wildmon criticized the television networks for being less responsive than advertisers. "They are still free to air anything they desire, dictated only by the marketplace -- which has always been the case," he said. "Our values, our principles, our morals -- those things which are very dear and meaningful to us -- have been ridiculed, belittled, mocked, and insulted by the networks," he said.

He added, "We feel the boycott will be criticized very loudly by the networks and the companies, but that's nothing new to us. The only thing that matters to them is money and we're ready to see the boycott through to prove our point."

CBTV said its study of television programming indicated that Hershey Foods "made the best effort of sponsorhip based on the programs available" -- and urged consumers to purchase its products "to express appreciation for Hershey's efforts."

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