WWF Super Bowl ad investigated
NEW YORK (AP) -- The World Wrestling Federation's raucous Super Bowl commercial is drawing fire from two TV watchdog groups who say it was indecent and shouldn't have been shown on a program with broad family appeal.
But WWF officials said most people who saw the ad -- including officials at Fox Broadcasting Co., which carried the telecast -- found nothing offensive about it and said they intend to run the commercial elsewhere.
Robert W. Peters, president of the group Morality in Media, called the WWF commercial "one of the most vile commercials ever aired on network TV" even though he conceded he hadn't seen it.
The American Family Association, another group often critical of sex and violence on television, told the Federal Communications Commission that the ad fell within the agency's definition of indecency and should not have run in the early evening as it did on the Super Bowl broadcast.
The American Family Association, which is based in Tupelo, Miss., filed a complaint against the local Fox television affiliate, WLOV in West Point, Miss., and urged others to file similar complaints against their local Fox stations.
The ad in question offered a typical "day at the office" at WWF headquarters in Stamford, Conn.
WWF wrestler "Stone Cold" Steve Austin says in the ad that the WWF offers "a nonviolent form of entertainment" just before he slams a folding chair against a passing executive. Other executives brawled in the lobby and office suites, and bodies crashed through glass partitions and a window.
The scene Roberts and the American Family Association faulted showed a a couple in an embrace with the woman's legs wrapped around the man's waist as the woman wrestler Sable walks by saying "We never use sex to enhance our image."
"The spot was a tongue-in-cheek parody," said Jim Byrne, a marketing executive for the WWF. "Everything about it was so over-the-top that for anyone to interpret it literally is interesting."
He said most people got the joke. "There will always be people who take themselves way too seriously who are extremely vocal," he said.
Calls to WLOV and to Fox network executives for comment were not immediately returned.
The FCC has authority to fine broadcast license holders like TV stations.
Norman Goldstein, chief of the FCC branch that handles such complaints, said the agency had received 45 complaints about the ad via e-mail through Wednesday morning.
Peters said there probably would have been no complaints about the ad had it run in late-night TV when children are not watching.
But he said he was appalled that it was shown during the Super Bowl which typically draws the year's biggest TV audience. "The vast majority of parents wouldn't have any concern about having their 2-year-olds watching it," he said.
He said the NFL should also be concerned about the ad.
"If they get away with this, what will the World Wrestling Federation do next year," he said.
Dave Miller, national field director for the American Family Association, said he's in not sure how the FCC will act on the complaint, but noted the agency has fined stations that have carried Howard Stern's often-controversial radio programs after his group filed protests.
"Nothing will be done if nothing is said," Miller said.