Los Angeles-Area Television Stations Decline To Air Advertisement Aimed at Raising Syphilis Awareness
Several Los Angeles-area television stations have declined to air an advertisement funded by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services intended to raise awareness about the dangers of syphilis, saying the content is inappropriate, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The 30-second television spot, created by a San Francisco ad agency, features "Phil the Sore," a cartoon character who follows two men who have sex with men who are going home together. The spot shows the men parting at the end of the night, when one them, dressed in a bathrobe and underwear, says, "Let's do it again sometime." Phil the Sore then is joined by other cartoon sores, carrying boxes labeled "brain damage," "rash" and "blindness" -- all potential complications of syphilis.
The county public health agency, which worked with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation to develop the ad, said it uses a playful tone to help capture attention and raise awareness about a disease that has become increasingly prevalent in Los Angeles in recent years. Between 2000 and 2003, Los Angeles County said that the number of early syphilis cases reported among MSM grew from 93 to 364. To date, 254 cases in MSM have been reported in the county in 2004.
Karen Mall of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation said that a 2003 survey found that since a billboard and public appearance campaign featuring Phil the Sore was launched, MSM who saw the messages were three times as likely to get tested for syphilis.
However, none of the five local television stations approached about running the television spot has agreed to do so. Two said they would consider showing the spot in late night broadcasting hours.
Mike Nelson, a spokesperson for KCBS-TV Channel 2, said the tone of the ad was too light-hearted, adding, "We found it to be inappropriate for a broadcast audience." He said, "We consider the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases to be a serious matter. It's an issue we have addressed and will continue to recognize through fair, accurate and balanced news reporting, as well as broadcasting public service announcements."
Several cable stations whose content is not regulated by the Federal Communications Commission have agreed to air the spot (Chong, Los Angeles Times, 12/2).