The Sydney Sun-Herald reports that five major sponsors of the Australian broadcast of The L Word have pulled their support of the show following pressure from a small Christian organization. The group, known as the Saltshakers, successfully lobbied Just Jeans, DaimlerChrysler, Roche, Allianz, and Centrum to pull their ads from the Channel Seven broadcast of the lesbian-themed drama. (Showtime, the producer of the show and its broadcaster in the United States, is a pay-cable channel that does not carry advertising.) The major concern of the Saltshakers was that the show advocates "self-insemination" in its story line regarding a lesbian couple looking to conceive. "I think there are a lot of people out there concerned," said Saltshakers chief executive Peter Stokes, "and companies concerned that their ads may be supporting women self-inseminating and women bringing children into the world who haven't got fathers."
Gay and lesbian advocates were outraged by the move. "There are a lot of images of diversity in pop culture these days, and it's disappointing that such big companies would respond to a pathetically small group that nobody has ever heard of and be cowed into reacting that way," said Merry Johns, editor of Lesbians on the Loose magazine. An Australian media buyer remarked that the media agencies of the companies involved should have warned the advertisers about the content of The L Word. "I don't know about political or religious lobby groups," Mike Wilson of Mediaedge:CIA told the Sun-Herald. "A lot of clients already have their own policies as to the type of content with which they'll be associated. I'm a bit mystified by what has happened with The L Word because it was well publicized by the network. The fact is, the agencies responsible for each of those clients should have been informed enough to warn them about the content."
The Saltshakers campaign marked a sea change for the group, which had previously targeted networks over programs the group considered objectionable rather than advertisers. "I hope Channel Seven is taking notice of its advertisers," said Stokes, who noted that his clout pales next to religious pressure groups in the United States. "I know the religious right in the U.S. has a million people on its e-mail system. Well, I've got 600."