Well, just a small caliber one. This ain't exactly earth shaking stuff, but I thought it was kind of amusing. Another example of "what were they thinking" corporate behavior from Disney. Granted, it may not matter much to their bottom line, but this kind of behavior ought to make folks think twice about supporting this sort of attitude with their hard-earned bucks. Of course, even more culpable is the leadership of the Judge Baker Center, and I would bet they will receive their ration of excrement over their decision. From today's online NYT headlines:
After Victory Over Disney, Group Loses Its Lease
By TAMAR LEWIN
Published: March 9, 2010
For a few days last fall, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood celebrated a big victory: the tiny advocacy group had successfully pushed the Walt Disney Company to offer full refunds to everyone who had bought the company’s popular Baby Einstein videos from June 2004 to September 2009.
But it did not take long for trouble to follow. The group has been evicted from the Harvard-affiliated children’s mental-health center in Boston that had housed and sponsored it for more than a decade.
Campaign officials say they were forced out after Disney made contact with health center officials. Neither Disney nor officials of the center, the Judge Baker Children’s Center, would comment about the eviction.
Just days after the Disney refunds were described on the front page of The New York Times on Oct. 23, campaign officials said they were contacted by Judge Baker officials expressing unhappiness with the group’s activities.
Dr. Alvin F. Poussaint, the psychiatrist who directs the Media Center at the Judge Baker center and oversaw the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, and Susan Linn, the campaign’s director, said center officials had told them that Disney contacted them three times.
“The Judge Baker staff informed us they didn’t want us to talk to the press, or to say anything about Baby Einstein,” Dr. Poussaint said. “They suggested to me that Disney was threatening to sue Judge Baker.”
As a professor at Harvard Medical School who has written books with Bill Cosby, Dr. Poussaint fields frequent calls from the news media. He said he was upset to be told not talk to reporters — and to be told that a group fighting the commercialization of children’s lives should not advocate against corporations.
“We’d been doing this for 10 years at Judge Baker with no problem,” Dr. Poussaint said. “We took up a thing with McDonald’s putting advertisements on report cards in Florida. The only thing that seemed to cause a problem was this Disney thing.”
The campaign had for years fought Disney’s marketing of the Baby Einstein videos — short videos filled with colors, nature pictures, music and puppets — as educational; it contended that there was no evidence that babies learned anything. Indeed, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under 2.
After the campaign filed a Federal Trade Commission complaint, Disney dropped the word “educational” from its marketing. But that was not enough for campaign officials. They forwarded their research to lawyers who threatened a class-action suit, prompting Disney to offer refunds of $15.99 for up to four Baby Einstein DVDs per household.
Barely two weeks after the story of the refunds appeared, Dr. Poussaint said, he and Dr. Linn were called before the Baker center’s executive board.
“I asked the lawyer who had talked to Disney, point-blank, whether Disney had threatened to sue, and he said no,” Dr. Poussaint said. “But I still don’t know the content of the conversations with Disney.”
In January, Dr. Poussaint said, the campaign was told to leave the center by the end of February. The timing could hardly have been more awkward. Dr. Poussaint was to be the honoree at the Judge Baker Children’s Center’s $250-a-ticket “World of Children” gala, scheduled for this Saturday — and Dr. Linn was the event’s co-chairwoman.
Dr. Poussaint decided that he could not in good faith receive the award when he was so at odds with the center. On Feb. 10, he sent a letter to John Weisz, the center’s president, saying that “with sadness and regret,” he was withdrawing from the event.
“I find the timing of your decision to expel C.C.F.C. from Judge Baker very difficult to understand, coming just before I was to receive the World of Children award, which was supposed to be a celebration — not a repudiation — of my work,” Dr. Poussaint wrote. “You told me that the mission of C.C.F.C. — to protect children from harmful exploitation by corporate marketers — is not in line with the Judge Baker mission. Indeed, we were told that we could no longer criticize any corporations, even if they were exploiting children.”
Judge Baker quickly canceled the gala, for which it had incurred costs of about $80,000, said Karen Schwartzman, a spokeswoman for the center. Ms. Schwartzman said no one at the center would discuss the break with the campaign.
Mr. Weisz and Kathryn Cade, who leads the board, announced the cancellation in a Feb. 16 letter to staff members and trustees. They emphasized that Judge Baker admired Dr. Poussaint and the Media Center, and had problems only with the campaign, which it acknowledged had been effective in curbing corporate advertising that preys on children’s vulnerabilities.
“It is the methods used by C.C.F.C., some of which have the potential to utilize litigation to achieve this success — in tandem with the shifting focus of the Judge Baker Children’s Center — that has led to the current difference of views,” the letter said.
Ms. Schwartzman said Judge Baker received no money and no promise of money from Disney.
Word of the rupture has not yet spread through the nation’s network of mental-health centers.
But Dr. Carl Bell, president and chief executive of the Community Mental Health Council in Chicago, when alerted by a reporter, said he was troubled because advocacy was a core responsibility of the 1963 legislation that provided federal financing for community mental-health centers.
“Children are all gasoline and no brakes,” Dr. Bell said, “and whether it’s cigarettes, alcohol or junk food, we need advocates to tell society to stop giving children so much gasoline.”
Dr. Bell, director of the Institute for Juvenile Research at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said his mental-health center had a community board, while Judge Baker had a corporate board, which he said might explain the Boston center’s actions.
“On a community board, it’s about public health, trying to transform people,” Dr. Bell said. “Corporate boards are more on the business transactional side of life, so they’re a bit more money-oriented.”
Ms. Schwartzman said the center was uncomfortable with the potential legal issues that might arise from the campaign’s aggressive advocacy.
The campaign, which has a paid staff of two and a budget of about $250,000, has just moved into new quarters in Boston at Third Sector New England, a group that helps support nonprofit organizations.
“It’s really chilling, that any corporation, and particularly one marketing itself as child friendly, would lean on a children’s center,” said Dr. Lynn, a psychiatry instructor at Harvard Medical School. “And it’s heartbreaking that a children’s center would cave in.”
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