Network Seeks New Legislation

Apr 12, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Lifetime, which has put the prevention of violence against women at center stage since 2002, won a Governors Emmy Award for its efforts last year.
But its executives aren’t stopping there. They want to get legislation passed in Congress.
When the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences presented that special Emmy to Lifetime for its Stop Violence Against Women campaign last September, the organization’s then-Chairman Bryce Zabel said, “Lifetime has consistently exerted leadership in the TV industry through its ongoing commitment to making the lives of women better.”
He called the campaign only one facet of the network’s “unparalleled efforts to advocate on behalf of women and families on a range of critical iss ues.”
Maura Dunbar, chair of the ATAS Governors Award nominating committee, lauded the initiative, saying its objectives “go well beyond awareness, offering resources and assistance as well.”
DNA Logjam
Lifetime Executive VP Meredith Wagner said getting the Emmy “really put that [initiative] on the map,” but she added that an even greater reward would be Senate passage of the Debbie Smith Act. That legislation would provide $1 billion in funding to alleviate the huge backlog of untested DNA samples taken as evidence in rape cases-evidence that typically languishes an average of 18 months before being tested.
If this logjam in untested rape kits were cleared, 50,000 to 100,000 rape and murder cases could be solved, according to estimates used by Lifetime. As many as 67,000 unsolved rapes and murders could be cleared, according to Scott Berkowitz, founding president of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), in a statement released by Lifetime April 2.
As part of Lifetime’s February-through-March anti-violence effort, Ms. Wagner took part in Stop Violence Week in Washington in early March with Lifetime’s partners, celebrity activists and women and families directly affected by violence. Her staff gave out special ties and scarves designed by Liz Claiborne to members of Congress and the Bush administration.
Politicians from both sides of the aisle, from President George W. Bush to Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., have voiced support for Lifetime’s initiative. Citing the network’s programming and public service announcements, President Bush issued a statement praising Lifetime’s promotion of domestic-violence awareness and observed, “Part of making sure that we help save lives is to educate people about the opportunities available.”
The president’s comment came last October at the unveiling of a Stop Family Violence stamp from the U.S. Postal Service, a fund-raising project Lifetime had supported. Money raised from sales of that stamp go toward the Department of Health and Human Services’ Stamp Out Domestic Violence Act of 2001.
Sen. Biden said he regards Lifetime as “an indispensable partner up here on Capitol Hill, pushing for passage of our DNA bill and working to get the [National Domestic Violence] Hotline the attention it deserves. We owe them a sincere debt of gratitude for their tireless work and advocacy on behalf of women everywhere.”
Progress in Congress
Since 2002 Lifetime has amassed more than 200,000 petition signatures backing the Debbie Smith Act, Ms. Wagner said. That bill passed the House last fall and may reach a Senate vote as early as this spring.
In the House, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., also bestowed kudos on Lifetime “for making this issue a presence in homes across the country and before people’s minds, connecting with people in a way that we on Capitol Hill, and often even the advocacy groups, cannot do.”
But that’s not the only piece of legislation on Lifetime’s mind these days. This is a year of milestone anniversaries, Ms. Wagner said-Lifetime’s 20th year, the breast cancer awareness effort’s 10th year and the 10th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act. Though that last campaign predates Lifetime’s involvement on Capitol Hill, Ms. Wagner said it’s important for the network’s audience to realize that the law is up for reauthorization.
By mid-March Lifetime had signed more than 130 cable affiliates for its anti-violence push, including systems owned by Comcast, Charter Communications, Time Warner Cable and Insight Communications.
To broaden its reach, the programmer forged a new partnership with two networks that have large male audiences: ESPN and Turner Network Television.
Mr. Berkowitz of RAINN, which operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline, also lavished praise on the network. “Many thousands of rape victims are getting the help they need, and millions of women and men are learning about how they can help stop sexual assault,” partly because of the network’s efforts, he said.
“Lifetime,” he said, “has proven its commitment to stopping violence against women and demonstrated great leadership in the effort to bring about real change.”
While Stop Violence Against Women was first selected as a primary initiative in 2002, the network’s interest in the issue actually began on a smaller scale with its Stand Up Against Violence campaign in 2001.