In class activity: 1950s TV Sponsor Censorship Guidelines

Learning Objective: Students will discover the challenges of developing creative programming ideas when faced with censorship restrictions imposed by network sponsors.

Bridge Discussion: Following this activity discuss how and why censorship may have led to the rise of game shows during the 1950s. Discuss how this relates to the 21st century rise of the reality-based competition series.


Get into groups of four (team lead should be a writer). Develop a concept of a TV show that avoids the following censored themes/characterization as stated by top 1950s sponsors Proctor & Gamble and General Foods (listed below) Name the show, Write a logline, Write a short summary paragraph, Describe the #1 person on your call sheet (star) YOU HAVE 20 MINUTES. Your show can be part of any genre. I will play the role of a network development executive you will pitch your concept to me and I will decide whether or not the network will “greenlight” your project.

P&G “Moral Code”
-Usual  prohibition of “taboo sex subjects” will be observed (i.e. homosexuality; romance/marriage/sex between people of different races).
-Avoid topic of rape
-Avoid any suggestive scenes or dialogue
-Avoid any double meanings
-Do not “attack the American way of life”
-Do not offend any “organized minority group, institution, commercial organization, state or region of the country”

General Foods
all programs should be a pleasant experience to watch while eating dinner.

See William Boddy’s monograph Fifties Television: The Industry and Its Critics for more information.

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