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Playboy Preaches Control

Christie Hefner is about to launch a crusade: Teaching Americans how not to watch TV they might find offensive, such as Playboy TV’s sexually seasoned programming.

Playboy Enterprises Inc. is about to begin cultivating video- and communications-industry support for an extensive, long- term educational initiative -- in both English and Spanish -- that will teach parents how to use various content-control devices and ratings guidelines. And she intends to gain airtime on cable-television channels to do so.

The campaign is supported by a slick, visually rich, interactive Web site that is already in operation (www.takeparentalcontrol.org). Its video clips and step-by-step instructions cover content-blocking techniques on media that include cable and satellite television, the Internet, wireless mobile phones, video games, satellite radio and portable media players, according to Playboy executives and what’s present on the site.

For a company that offers explicit adult programming to spearhead such a multifaceted anti-indecency campaign is unusual -- and responsible, according to Playboy Entertainment Group president Jim Griffiths.

“What’s important to us that people understand that we are supporting our programming but also supporting a person’s right to choose not to see our programming,” Griffiths said. “If they choose not to see our programming, we’re giving them the tools to protect their children from seeing our programming, as well.”

At the forefront of Playboy’s good citizenship efforts is Hefner, the business-savvy daughter of Playboy empire founder Hugh Hefner. Griffiths said Hefner is fully behind the campaign and will also be its point person.

He added that Hefner plans to be front and center in Playboy’s effort to lure telecommunications conglomerates such as Comcast Corp., Time Warner Inc., Microsoft Corp., Verizon Communications Inc., Sony Corp. and Viacom Inc. to join its cause -- as well as lawmakers.

The campaign, developed for Playboy by Long Island-based marketing and promotion company Team Services, does not prominently feature Playboy’s famed bunny logo. Except for a tiny credit line at the bottom of each Web page, Playboy’s bunny prints aren’t visible anywhere.

The tag line for the campaign is “Parental control. Our right. Our responsibility.” And the site that supports it attempts to be the most in-depth and informative source of technology and ratings-control options available on the Internet.

Besides its own content, for instance, the site also provides links to the various ratings boards and parental-control organizations within the Internet, video-gaming, cable, satellite and satellite-radio space. Its “Resource Center” links to other parental-guidance sites in the cable, satellite, motion-picture and other related industries, including controlyourtv.com (controlyourtv.com) from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

The site also features a media-download page where operators and other industry companies can access TV spots, ad slicks, direct-mail pieces and Web banners for distribution via various media.

Playboy plans to roll out its campaign over the next few months, with Hefner simultaneously -- and somewhat ironically -- waving the flags of both First Amendment rights to free speech and parental responsibility for controlling what’s seen in any given household.

For more on Playboy’s effort, please see R. Thomas Umstead’s story on page four of Monday’s issue of Multichannel News.