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SBC president joins chorus of protests of new Fox show

ATLANTA (BP)–Southern Baptist Convention President James Merritt has told the Fox network that its “Temptation Island,” a new show slated to debut in mid-January, may represent “absolutely the lowest and most debased level of television programming” in TV history.

Merritt, in a Jan. 8 letter, appealed to Fox executive Gail Berman, “I want to ask you to go to the depths of your heart and honestly ask this question: ‘Is this the best Fox Network can do?’ I want to urge you as strongly as I can to reconsider airing this type of sordid entertainment.

“Whether you want to admit it or not, nothing positive can come from it (except perhaps monetary profit — but at what cost?)” Merritt wrote. “I believe the Fox Network can do better, should do better, and must do better.”

Merritt, pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church of Snellville, was writing in response to a Parents Television Council appeal for protests to the Fox network over Temptation Island.

PTC founder L. Brent Bozell III, in a Jan. 4 statement, said the show — with its premise, “to break up relationships for fun,” as Bozell put it — is “another example of how America today views the pain of others as cheap entertainment.”

The Parents Television Council urged that protests be directed to the Fox network via Gail Berman, Fox Entertainment, 10201 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90035. The telephone number is (310) 369-1000; e-mail, [email protected].

PTC’s website, which includes names of advertisers on various programs, is www.parentstv.org.

Merritt, in his letter to Berman, also wrote, “I realize that coming from a person of my position this letter might be automatically discounted as just another person from the so-called ‘religious right.’ But when it comes to the morality of our children and teenagers, everyone should be involved and everyone should be concerned, including yourself.”

“It is apparent to me that Fox was not being honest,” Bozell said in his Jan. 4 statement, “when it claimed to have learned its lesson from last year’s ‘Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire’ disaster. It has now sunk even lower with its newest reality-based show, ‘Temptation Island.’ … Fifteen years ago, we found entertainment in shows such as ‘The Dating Game,’ which celebrated the creation of new relationships. What kind of a society are we that we now revel in their destruction?”

The Parents Television Council was established in 1995 as a Hollywood project of the Washington-based Media Research Center. The PTC describes itself as a nonpartisan group offering private sector solutions to restore television to its roots as an independent and socially responsible entertainment medium. The late Steve Allen was among its key supporters; current advisory board members include entertainers Pat Boone, Tim Conway, Jane Seymour, Rose Marie, Mort Sahl and Susan Howard; film critic Michael Medved; U.S. Sens. Sam Brownback of Kansas and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and Rep. Steve Largent of Oklahoma.