NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–USA Network, the most-viewed cable channel during primetime last year, has launched a public affairs campaign that — among other things — backs “gay marriage” and asks viewers to go online and sign a tolerance pledge.
“The Characters Unite” campaign plays off the channel’s “Characters Welcome” slogan and features a TV ad showing people of various ethnicities stating reasons why they are signing the network’s pledge. The ad shows a male same-sex couple as one of the men states, “I pledge because everybody deserves wedding gifts.” A female voice ends the ad by stating, “Life is richer when we see past our differences and appreciate each other for the characters that we are. Join the movement. Take the pledge at CharactersUnite.com.”
The pledge itself isn’t so controversial, with the heart of it stating, “I take this pledge to stand against prejudice, intolerance, and hate, and promote greater acceptance and understanding in my daily life.” But the CharactersUnite.com website makes it clear how USA Network interprets the pledge. One section of the website lists “50 Things You Can Do To Unite the USA.” No. 31 is “Leave the culture wars behind.” No. 45 states that “gay rights are human rights.”
Among the campaign’s nine sponsors is the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), a leading group backing “gay marriage.”
Owned by NBC, USA Network is a variety network that is best known among young males for its “WWE Monday Night Raw.” But it’s not just known for pro wrestling. For the week ending Jan. 11, it had six of the 10 most-watched cable primetime shows, including “Monk.”
The campaign’s reference to “gay marriage” comes in the wake of California’s passage of Proposition 8, which overturned a state high court ruling and defines marriage as being between one man and one woman. USA Network isn’t the first major media outlet to stir controversy on the issue. In December Newsweek magazine featured a one-sided cover story focusing on what it called “The Religious Case for Gay Marriage.”
USA Network’s campaign was launched Jan. 19, one day prior to President Obama’s inauguration.
“When we began developing CHARACTERS UNITE over a year ago, none of us could have foreseen a more perfect climate in which to launch this initiative,” Bonnie Hammer, president of NBCU Cable Entertainment and Universal Cable Productions, said in a news release. “Though Barack Obama’s election represents a giant leap forward in overcoming ‘isms’ that surround us, we can’t be complacent — research shows that hate groups are alive and well. With the help of our expert advisory board, we hope that CHARACTERS UNITE can play a role in bridging the gaps that continue to divide us.”
Alexandra Shapiro, who is in charge of marketing for USA Network, said the network is working with the Washington, D.C., lobbying firm Podesta Group to “influence positive changes to legislation surrounding the issues of prejudice and intolerance.” The press release did not specify what legislation would be promoted.
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.