PR PLAY OF THE WEEK: Fox shocks, scores with show of morality

NEW YORK: Fox advocating against indecency in the media? That sounds as strange as a version of The Bachelor starring a bunch of little people. But, in 2004, anything is possible, including an attempt by the purveyor of The Littlest Groom to earn PR points in the moralistic hubbub that's followed Janet Jackson's tactical Super Bowl disrobing.

NEW YORK: Fox advocating against indecency in the media? That sounds as strange as a version of The Bachelor starring a bunch of little people. But, in 2004, anything is possible, including an attempt by the purveyor of The Littlest Groom to earn PR points in the moralistic hubbub that's followed Janet Jackson's tactical Super Bowl disrobing.

Since its inception, Fox has been known to poke and prod at the TV audience's stomach for crass language and low-concept programming. From the anti-sitcom Married...with Children to America's Scariest Car Chases, the network has been at the forefront of discussions on morality and TV. More recently, it's lowered the already dragging bar on the reality TV category with entries like Littlest Groom and My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé. Last week, in a twist worthy of reality-show finale, Fox did something of an about-face, with news of an ad campaign urging audiences to use TVs with V-chips, the technology that allows parents to prevent kids from watching shows with specific ratings. The six-week print campaign will be accompanied by other initiatives, including a one-hour news report on the topic of indecency, that serve to carve out a clear position on a recent hot-button issue. These plans, reported in The Wall Street Journal, came at the request of FCC chairman Michael Powell, who asked each of the networks to develop suggestions for improving standards. Changing a public perception that vacillates between provocateur and vulgarian would seem a long shot. After all, Fox often plays on its penchant for shock in its own promos, a model that's worked in its rise to become a major broadcast TV player. The campaign's effectiveness comes as a loud and clear signal - at this point, louder and clearer than anything from other networks - to regulators and that niche of more morally-minded consumers that the network understands the issue at hand. And for that display of awareness, the Fox wins PR Play of the Week.

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