The Entertainment Industries Council, formed three years ago to address the growing drug problem within the entertainment community, has now issued a "challenge" to the film and television industry to use its influence to help educate the public about AIDS.
Backed by a three-year, $300,000 grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the nonprofit, industry-supported council plans to mail a "white paper" today to 2,500 members of the entertainment community recommending steps they can take to become part of the anti-AIDS effort. A series of educational workshops with writers and directors is planned here for later in the year. Meetings with corporate executives will be held in New York.
The Entertainment Industries Council is backed by representatives from virtually all the major studios, networks and other groups within the entertainment industry.
Particularly targeted by the organization's new initiative are those who work creatively in television, according to council president Brian Dyak.
"AIDS has been perceived as a gay issue and that's just not the case," Dyak said from the organization's Burbank office. The paper emphasizes that acquired immune deficiency syndrome is slowly spreading into the heterosexual community and is disproportionately affecting black and Latino populations. "And if television shows can help spread that message, it's better for everybody," Dyak said.
"We're stressing (the need for) safer sex and safer drug use. We're staying pretty general at this point, rather than taking official positions. It doesn't matter to us if it's depicted (on TV) as abstinence or with a condom, so long as the safe sex message gets across.
"As for drugs, we're trying to get the message out that users need to stop using drugs, or at least clean their works. But the bottom line is, no drug use at all."
The primary recommendations: AIDS/drug prevention educational messages should be placed within prime time. Celebrities should be used to deliver messages. True-to-life AIDS stories should be incorporated into story lines and other entertainment programming. Humor should be used as a vehicle to make the anti-AIDS message less threatening. A balance should be reached between too blatant and too graphic a depiction of AIDS and too general a treatment.
Also, the mass audience should be a primary target. Special attention should be given to messages and programming targeted to Latino, black and Asian viewers. Emphasis should be placed on stressing safer sex and safer intravenous drug use, but primarily discouraging any drug use at all. And the entertainment industry and media should approach AIDS education using techniques of commercial advertising and promotion.
The creative side of the industry has been more responsive than those in management, "although I have not had a door shut anywhere I've gone," Dyak said.
"I hope we can get the executives to give support and implementation to the (safe sex and anti-drug) ideas being generated by the creative community," Dyak said. "I don't really see the lack of (corporate) response as resistance as much as a lack of information.
"It's a particularly touchy issue with the networks right now--they don't know who they're going to alienate."
The Entertainment Industries Council is also involved in a cooperative effort with the nonprofit Human Interaction Research Corp. in running the industrywide AIDS Task Force to encourage companies to provide AIDS educational programs for employees and support services to employees with AIDS or AIDS-Related Complex.