P&G executive leading charge for family programming

CINCINNATI - Procter & Gamble executive Bob Wehling's quest for more family oriented television programming is finally paying off.

A group of major advertisers he co-founded last year called Family Friendly Programming Forum has succeeded in producing its first program, ''Gilmore Girls.'' The weekly drama about a single mother and her 16-year-old daughter will start this fall on the WB network.

''I've been after the networks for 20 years on the subject of family friendly programming,'' said Wehling, P&G's senior executive for global marketing, consumer and market knowledge and government relations.

The group also is trying to increase awareness of quality family shows with the debut of the ''Family Television Awards'' on CBS Thursday.

''We're trying to promote these shows, and celebrate this kind of work in the Hollywood community so it will, hopefully, inspire more writers and producers to develop and write this kind of material,'' he told The Cincinnati Enquirer for a story Sunday.

P&G, a consumer products company based in Cincinnati with such brands as Tide and Crest, is the nation's second-largest advertiser, but that isn't the only reason Wehling is so concerned about family programming.

''The Family Friendly Forum is fundamentally on behalf of the company, but I personally subscribe to all of this,'' he said. ''I've got 15 grandchildren that I'd like to have grow up in an atmosphere of quality programs.''

Wehling, 61, told WB Chief Executive Jamie Kellner last summer that he wanted to see more shows like ''7th Heaven,'' WB's top-rated show about a minister's family.

''So I told Bob, 'Put your money where your mouth is,'' Kellner recalls.

Wehling and other members of the Association of National Advertisers put up $1 million for scripts that they could not control. Kellner let others know that WB was looking for family oriented programming.

Eight family scripts were written, two of which were filmed as pilots. One, ''Gilmore Girls,'' was good enough to make the fall lineup at 8 p.m. Thursday, the hour that Wehling said is key because it typically is right before many children go to bed.

The effort has been successful enough that more money has been set side for next year at WB. Wehling also has discussed a similar arrangement for CBS.

Meanwhile, forum membership has quadrupled to 43 members, including companies such as AT&T and Hershey Foods.

Finding family oriented programming has become more of a chore these days. Family programs such as ''Home Improvement'' and ''Full House'' have given way to more adult-oriented comedies such as ''Friends'' or sexually charged dramas like ''Dawson's Creek,'' the newspaper reported.

Advocates of more family programming say more family shows will breed even more shows.

''Everything is cyclical. They'll come back,'' said Amy Sherman-Palladina, a former Roseanne writer who created ''Gilmore Girls.'' ''Another new show will break out - the next Roseanne or the next Tim Allen - and suddenly everyone will be doing family shows instead of ensemble comedies set in New York.''

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