Los Angeles Television Stations Reject Anti-Syphilis PSA Created by County Public Health Agency, AHF
December 3, 2004
Several Los Angeles television stations have refused to run an anti-syphilis public service announcement created by the Los Angeles County Department of Health and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, saying that the PSA's content is "inappropriate," the Los Angeles Times reports. The 30-second PSA features a "lumpy, red cartoon character with an earring" called "Phil the Sore," who follows two men as they go home together, according to the Times. As the two men later part, one in a bathrobe and underwear says, "Let's do it again sometime," after which Phil the Sore calls in his "whole family," who carry boxes labeled "brain damage," "rash" and "blindness," which are all potential results of a syphilis infection, according to the Times. County health officials said they worked with AHF to develop the PSA because of the "dramatic" rise of syphilis cases among men who have sex with men, according to the Times. According to the county health department, the number of syphilis cases reported in the county increased from 93 in 2000 to 364 in 2003. County officials said the PSA is "adult-oriented" but aimed at people at greatest risk of contracting syphilis, according to the Times. Health officials said they were "frustrated" that five local television stations -- including affiliates for NBC, Fox, UPN and the WB -- refused to run the PSA (Chong, Los Angeles Times, 12/2). Some stations offered to run the commercial in a "toned-down form or late at night, when children would not likely be watching," AHF spokesperson Ged Kenslea said (Reuters, 12/2). Several cable stations, whose content is not regulated by the Federal Communications Commission, have agreed to run the spot, according to the Times (Los Angeles Times, 12/2).
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