Dr. Laura March 2001: the demise of a syndicated television show hosted by an antigay radio personality is the culmination of more than two years of activism by community organizers. Romaine Patterson recounts the battle – Safety in numbers
When news came in early 1999 that Paramount Domestic Television had made radio talk-show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger a lucrative offer to host her own daytime TV show, there was little doubt that she would use this new platform to perpetuate her use of “advice” as a weapon to attack gay and lesbian people, whose lives she dismissed as “deviant” and the result of a “biological error.” Long before the September II, 2000, debut of the syndicated Dr. Laura, community organizations start ed one of the most powerful campaigns ever against media defamation.
Led by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and John Aravosis’s grassroots StopDrLaura.com, individuals were galvanized in their mission to stop Schlessinger’s antigay commentary. They expressing their anger with letter-writing, calls, and E-mails; meetings with local television stations to discourage them from buying the program; and protests at the gates of Paramount studios in Hollywood. Thousands of people contacted the show’s advertisers, asking each of them to reconsider running ads on Dr. Laura–a clever strategy calculated to cripple the studio’s revenue directly. More than 170 U.S. and Canadian sponsors announced that they would not support the show, starting with one of the largest advertisers in the world, Procter &, Gamble.
Paramount pleaded for activists to let the viewers decide for themselves about the fate of Dr. Laura. By awarding the show abysmal ratings, viewers did just that, sending the message that this doctor should not make house calls. On March 30, 2001, after barely a half year on the air, Schlessinger herself conceded defeat, announcing there would be no second season for TV’s Dr. Laura.
Patterson is the former mid-Atlantic regional media manager for GLAAD.
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