National Geographic Channel is giving critics of the Boy Scouts' policy ban on openly gay members an online platform in advance of a scouting reality show's debut Monday night.
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation said Monday that gay Eagle Scout Will Oliver had delivered over 120,000 petitions from the change.org site to the National Geographic Channel headquarters in Washington asking it to air a disclaimer on Monday night's debut of scouting reality competition show, Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout, which was produced by Original Productions (Ice Road Truckers, Deadliest Catch) with the help of the Boy Scouts of America.
The petitions urge the News Corp.-owned channel to denounce on air the Boy Scout ban on gay scouts and leaders.
The channel, which has denied an earlier request, reiterated that position Monday through a spokesman. "It is network policy that the only disclaimers we air are related to content," said the spokesman. But a network source said a representative of the channel had met with GLAAD Monday and offered to post a blog on its site written by Oliver. The source said the channel would make sure to post it prior to the show's airing. A GLAAD spokesperson confirmed the offer and said they were working on the post, which will talk about "the dangers and the harms of the gay ban."
Will that suffice? Rich Ferraro, VP, communications, for GLAAD called it a "nice gesture" on Nat Geo's part and a step in the right direction, but said GLAAD still wants the channel to explicitly distance itself from the ban. GLAAD will still contact advertisers to remind them the channel is airing the show, and will continue to pressure the channel. "We do think there is still a chance for them to take a leadership role and speak out against the ban, either with a disclaimer or in a statement."
While Nat Geo has no plans to air the disclaimer, it has made it clear that its own policy is one of tolerance. "National Geographic Channel is an international media company that is an equal opportunity employer. We do not discriminate in any capacity," the company said in a statement last month. "As it relates to our upcoming show with the Boy Scouts, we certainly appreciate all points of view on the topic, but when people see our show they will realize it has nothing to do with this debate, and is in fact a competition series between individual scouts and civilians."
GLAAD was pushing supporters to use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to lobby for the disclaimer on Monday. Meanwhile, the Boy Scouts have been using their website to try and drum up viewership to the reality series BSA says the show will be "Changing the conversation about the Boy Scouts," while GLAAD wants the conversation to remain about the group's policy on gays.