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Donahue’s Decline

Television talk show pioneer Phil Donahue has been dropped by stations in New York and San Francisco, fueling industry speculation that he will be off the air everywhere within a year. The 59-year old Donahue whose syndicated show has been on for 28 years, was always near the top of the ratings until 1992 when Fort Worth dentist Richard B. Neill began a one-man crusade against the content, which ranged from mother-daughter stripper teams to homosexual marriages. Eventually, 221 sponsors contacted by Neill quit advertising on Donahue’s show, causing revenues to decline. Neill told CT that Donahue began cleaning up his act last year—which, ironically, caused ratings to fall further in the suddenly flush trash-talk show market. Neill’s book, Taking on Donahue and TV Morality (Multnomah, 1994), explains how to pressure sponsors into dropping offensive programs.

Christianity Today, October 2, 1995, p. 111