The Southern Baptist Convention is gearing up a sophisticated and detailed program to encourage its 13 million members to make their views and influence felt in the high reaches of the television industry.
Within the next couple of weeks - just in time for the new program sweepstakes of the TV networks - more than 45,000 pastors and other Baptist leaders will receive a carefully designed and attractively printed packet called "Help for Television Viewers."
In addition to a red-white-and-blue poster for the church bulletin board summoning the faithful to join in the campaign, the packet includes seven carefully researched and written leaflets on various aspects of television's impact on American life.
Included also is a viewing log and rating sheet, with a detailed inventory of both good and bad points to look for in a given program, along with blank "immediate reaction" post cards preaddressed to the presidents of the three-television networks.
The material, produced by the Baptist Convention's Christian Life Commission in Nashville, is in response to statements adopted by the nation's largest Protestant communion last June resolving to "courageously confront television's moral challenge."
Southern Baptists, the resolution went on to say, "have a responsibility to help harness television's potential for moral good and to help check its potential for moral evil."
The Viewers' packet was also spurred by the growing controversy over the planned new TV program, "Soap," which the ABC network calls adult comedy but which Baptist leader Foy Valentine calls "prime time pollution."
Last week the Department of Communication of the United States Catholic Conference demanded that "Soap" be dropped from the network lineup, charging that it is "in direct contradiction" with the broadcasters' code.
The new Baptist offer no predetermined blacklist of objectionable programs, but a reasoned discussion, drawn from findings of social scientists and educators, of the effects of television in the national life.
Viewers are encouraged to make their own judgments of programs in the light of their own moral and religious standards.
"Obviously the networks cannot please everyone," one of the leaflets points out in a statement by Harry N. Hollis Jr., director of family and special moral concerns of the Christian Life Commission.
"There are too many groups with too many different philosophies to do that," he continued. "But the networks must hear the anguished cry, the broad-based protest by the American people" who, he insisted "are fed up with the exploitation of violence and sex on television."
Among the resources listed in the packet are addresses of the networks, both trade and consumer organizations and government regulatory agencies.
Also included is an address list of the 10 largest TV advertisers, with a comprehensive listing of all the products they sell.
The packet also contains a 4- by 5-inch decal designed for sticking onto the TV set, with a suggested list of criteria for TV watching, such as; "Will watching this program represent responsible Christian stewardship for me?"
At the top is the legend: "Either you control your TV or your TV will control you."