Thousands Protest Lifetime TV’s New Reality Show ‘Deadbeat Dads’!

February 24, 2011 update–It’s been almost two years since our campaign against Lifetime TV’s anti-father reality show  Deadbeat Dads and there’s no sign that the show will be aired. We again thank the thousands of you who answered our call to action and participated in our campaign.

September 16, 2009 update–Our Lifetime campaign was successful, at least for 2009.  We had originally been told that Lifetime planned to begin airing Deadbeat Dads in late July or early August. It’s now mid-September and there’s no sign of Deadbeat Dads.

We will continue to monitor the situation, and if in the future we have good reason to believe that Lifetime will be going ahead with the show, we will renew our efforts. Thanks again to the thousands of you who participated.

May 11, 2009 update–Last year we conducted a protest campaign against Fox over its anti-father reality show Bad Dads, and Fox decided to drop the show. Lifetime TV decided to pick it up, and renamed the show  Deadbeat Dads.

“The Lifetime TV program ignores the numbers. More than 90 percent of fathers with joint custody paid the support due…most so-called deadbeat dads actually are dead broke. Two-thirds of men who fail to make child-support payments earn poverty-level wages, according to the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement.”–Washington Times editorial, 5/18/09

Two weeks ago we launched a protest campaign against Lifetime’s Deadbeat Dads.

Lifetime has received over 5,000 calls, letters, and faxes from our supporters, and our protest garnered press attention and the endorsements of nearly 200 mental health, family law and medical professionals, and other prominent citizens. We also drew support from the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), which advocates for low income families.

“Just when I thought TV couldn’t sink any lower with some of its toxic programming, yet another new reality show is poised to hit the lineup – Deadbeat Dads on Lifetime…The creators are using the program to exploit what is really a much larger social problem – America’s broken families.”–Fatimah Ali of the  Philadelphia Daily News editorial board, 5/26/09

This campaign was an early, preemptive strike–if the show does air, it won’t be for several months. We have made our point, and have decided to suspend the campaign against Deadbeat Dads.

We will continue to monitor the situation, and if in the future we have good reason to believe that Lifetime will be going ahead with the show, we will renew our efforts.

The campaign web page will remain up, as will all relevant information concerning the campaign.

Thanks to all of you who participated.

Glenn Sacks, MA
Executive Director

Ned Holstein, M.D., M.S.
Founder, Chairman of the Board


May 4, 2009–Lifetime TV announced the launch of its new, father-bashing reality show Deadbeat Dads last week, and Lifetime received several thousand protest letters, calls and faxes last week. This week we take our protest to the Hearst Corporation, which owns much of Lifetime TV. To email and fax a protest letter to both Hearst and Lifetime Executives, click here. Also, please call Hearst-Argyle Television, Inc.’s main switchboard at (212) 887-6800. If you participated in Round 1, we invite you to participate in Round 2.

“Neither accurate nor fair.”
–Syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker, Washington Post Writers Group, on Deadbeat Dads

According to The Hollywood Reporter, “Deadbeat Dads, originally developed at Fox, follows National Child Support founder Jim Durham as he tracks down and confronts dads who don’t pay child support.’ According to Reuters, Durham “functions as a sort of ‘Dog the Bounty Hunter’ for tracking deadbeats…It’s ambush reality TV.” Durham will target fathers who are behind on their child support by “making their lives miserable — foreclosing on their house, repossessing their car. He will squeeze them.”

“The producers of this show, which is supposed to center the welfare of children, think nothing about turning kids into collateral damage.’–syndicated advice columnist Amy Alkon, on Deadbeat Dads

Last April, Fathers & Families led a highly-publicized campaign against the show (originally called “Bad Dads’) and got Fox to drop it. Now Lifetime TV, which reaches nearly 100 million households, has picked up Deadbeat Dads, which unfairly depicts divorced fathers as uncaring and selfish. Research clearly shows that most divorced dads pay their child support and remain a part of their children’s lives, often under difficult circumstances. In fact, federal government data shows that the overwhelming majority of “deadbeat dads” earn poverty level wages–only 4% earn even $40,000 a year.

“Disturbing…they are heaping abuse on men in the name of ‘justice'”–TV Host/Psychologist Helen Smith, on Deadbeat Dads

To email and fax a protest letter to both Hearst and Lifetime Executives, click here. Also, please call Hearst-Argyle Television, Inc.’s main switchboard at (212) 887-6800.

Deadbeat Dads kicks fathers while they”re down. Media reports show the majority of those losing their jobs in this recession are men, and child support orders are notoriously difficult to modify downward. As the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and other papers have documented, these hard luck dads sometimes end up in jail.

“Information about child support debts that is fed to such agencies is often incorrect…both feminist and men’s groups have protested the unethical, thug-like methods used by agencies…”–Author, former Fox News Columnist Wendy McElroy, on Deadbeat Dads

To email and fax a protest letter to both Hearst and Lifetime Executives, click here. Also, please call Hearst-Argyle Television, Inc.’s main switchboard at (212) 887-6800.

The worst part about Deadbeat Dads is the way it publicly humiliates children in single parent families by depicting their fathers as not loving or caring for them. How is a child to feel when he or she sees their dad being vilified on TV because he allegedly doesn’t love or provide for them? How is the child to feel when he or she is reminded of this by friends or teased about it on the schoolyard?

Yes, reality shows do sometimes intrude on people’s privacy, but rarely do they cast aspersions on something as intimate and emotional as parents’ love for their children. Also, most reality show participants are volunteers. These children did not volunteer to be humiliated on national television.

The Center for Law and Social Policy Issues Devastating Critique of Private Child Support Collectors” Abuses–Read It Here

To email and fax a protest letter to both Hearst and Lifetime Executives, click here. Also, please call Hearst-Argyle Television, Inc.’s main switchboard at (212) 887-6800.

Dr. Linda Nielsen, President of the American Coalition for Fathers & Children, which participated in the Bad Dads campaign last year, says:

The show will offend and insult millions of American parents and grandparents and could harm millions of children. Kids are too young to realize that 80% of divorced dads pay their full child support, and may form negative opinions of divorced fathers–opinions which could damage their relationships with their own dads.

Deadbeat Dads contributes to the breakdown of healthy family life and perpetuates the marginalization of fathers from their families and communities based on finance–excluding their important moral, spiritual and ethical contributions to those families.’ –William Stephney, media executive, Member of the New Jersey Special Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights,  on Deadbeat Dads

Legislative advocate Michael Robinson of the California Alliance for Fathers & Children, which participated in the Bad Dads campaign last year, says:

A show of this nature is demeaning to fathers and perpetuates many ill-founded myths surrounding child support.

According to US Census data, noncustodial mothers are 20% more likely to default on their child support obligations than noncustodial fathers. It is misleading and unfair to name the show Deadbeat Dads when the average noncustodial father is more likely to pay his child support than the average noncustodial mother.

To email and fax a protest letter to both Hearst and Lifetime Executives, click here. Also, please call Hearst-Argyle Television, Inc.’s main switchboard at (212) 887-6800.

Another problem with Deadbeat Dads is that studies show that the arrearages for which “deadbeat dads” are pursued are often erroneous. For example, a recent Massachusetts audit found that the arrearages were incorrect in 92% of that state’s cases.

“A show that does no one any good.”
–Author Joel Schwartzberg, Newark Star-Ledger (6/4/09)

The California Department of Child Support Services itself admitted last year that the overwhelming majority of “deadbeat dads” are the product of problems and abuses within the child support system. Missouri Child Support Auditor Susan Montee recently called the way Missouri calculates child support arrearages “extremely sloppy…a total inattention to making sure these numbers are right.”

Over 150 Mental Health, Family Law & Medical Professionals Condemn Lifetime’s Deadbeat Dads

To email and fax a protest letter to both Hearst and Lifetime Executives, click here. Also, please call Hearst-Argyle Television, Inc.’s main switchboard at (212) 887-6800.

Moreover, Deadbeat Dads glorifies the role of private child support collection agencies, even though these agencies often manhandle fathers and exploit and deceive custodial mothers. In fact, women’s advocates, including the National Organization for Women, have repeatedly condemned these agencies for mistreating women. Durham, the central figure in Deadbeat Dads, has often been singled out by women’s groups as a perpetrator of these abusive tactics.

“[Private child support collection]  companies interfere with the parents” employment relationships, make unauthorized foreclosure threats, harass mortgage companies, and repeatedly pull down credit records. They sometimes call the grandparents and threaten them with jail unless the grandparents pay up.”–The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP)

For example, the National Organization for Women says “privatizing child support collection is a truly bad idea.” They explain:

“Unregulated private collection companies keep 30 to 40% of the funds secured from parents owing support payments. As we have seen from experiences in various states where private collection companies operate in child support payment collection, some families get nothing back – even after paying hefty fees for those services…vulnerable families [are subjected] to potentially unscrupulous collection companies.”

According to TIME Magazine’s “Deadbeat Profiteers” (9/2/02), “aggravated spouses…gripe [about] profiteering companies…State agencies and nonprofit organizations have received hundreds of complaints in the past few years from clients who feel bilked. Some custodial parents don’t realize how difficult the contracts are to cancel and find themselves paying exorbitant fees for services that aren’t fully delivered…[they’re accused of] misleading advertising and unconscionable contracts.”

“[Private child support collection]  companies often inflate child support debts by charging unauthorized interest on decades-old debts and extort payments that the companies know that parents do not owe. They undermine regular payments being made by the parents and sabotage these parents” often tenuous toe-hold in the mainstream economy.”–The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP)

Geraldine Jensen, founder of the Association for Children for Enforcement of Support, whose members are custodial parents seeking child support, says:

We have all sorts of people who have gone to private agencies and feel ripped off and lied to…[the firms] are preying on people.

In addition, child support collector Jim Durham, who is at the center of Lifetime’s Deadbeat Dads, has been the target of many custodial mothers’ complaints. SmartMoney magazine detailed private child support collections agencies’ abuses in their article Mother’s Little Helpers (8/2/02), and they specifically point to Durham as one of the leading culprits. According to SmartMoney:

[Durham’s] National takes a whopping 34% of any money that comes in. That’s not just of collections it has a hand in. It’s of any child support the parent forks out until the back sum is paid…the bill creeps even higher once other charges such as application and administration fees are tacked on…

Talk to parents and advocacy groups and it isn’t long before you come across tales of people locked into contracts they didn’t understand. Of private agencies taking a cut of money they hadn’t helped collect, such as wages garnished by the government. Of firms harassing noncustodial parents with questionable tactics…

With complaints pouring in from moms, some states are mulling over putting hard caps on the amount private firms can collect.

To email and fax a protest letter to both Hearst and Lifetime Executives, click here. Also, please call Hearst-Argyle Television, Inc.’s main switchboard at (212) 887-6800.

Private child support collection agencies often make mistakes which ruin lives. According to SmartMoney magazine:

You could find a deadbeat dad hunter knocking on your door even if you’re paid up on child support. It happened to Otto Tidwell. The host of a home-improvement radio show (Mr. Fix-It) in Denver, Tidwell was surprised when he got a call in 1999 from a private agency saying he owed around $200,000, dating to his divorce in 1974.

“The collector was very aggressive and threatening, calling me a deadbeat dad, saying they were going to get me one way or another, that there are remedies for people like me,’ says Tidwell, 60. ‘There were threats of court action; they were going to attach my wages and do all sorts of things. They even called my wife and threatened her to get to me.’

True, Tidwell had once fallen behind in his support payments by $672, but that was back in 1981, and he had long since caught up. He tried to explain that to the collection agent but didn’t make much headway. ‘She didn’t care,’ he recalls.

Tidwell called the courts to get proof he was paid up. Then he called in his lawyer, who fired off a letter to the firm slamming its ‘intimidation and coercion’ and ‘unsupported harassment.’ The firm eventually backed off, but not before Tidwell had the pants scared off him. ‘If I hadn’t kept every bit of documentation with me, they might be hounding me to this day. Or I might have even been suckered into paying something I didn’t owe.’

In 2006, Michael Robinson presented Assembly Member Mark Leno with a case where a private collection agency had contacted an alleged Obligor father claiming he had not paid his child support for the last 15 years. According to Robinson:

The collection agency made threats to place a lien on the father’s property and other hostile actions. The private agency had been contacted by the Obligee mother, who had recently learned that the father had come into a substantial inheritance. Fortunately the father in this case had every single canceled check and receipt showing he had paid all of his support over the years on time. The child was 23 years of age at the time this took place.

To email and fax a protest letter to both Hearst and Lifetime Executives, click here. Also, please call Hearst-Argyle Television, Inc.’s main switchboard at (212) 887-6800.

Television is already rife with negative, misleading and unfair depictions of fathers–Deadbeat Dads promises to be one of the worst examples. Many successful, highly-visible commentators have recently gone on record as opposing the negative way the media portrays men and fathers. These include:

  • Syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker, whose weekly columns appear in 300 newspapers;
  • TV host Bill Maher;
  • CBS News anchor Charles Osgood;
  • Nationally syndicated radio-talk-show host Laura Schlessinger
  • Leading advertising executives Bob Jeffery, chairman of JWT, one of the world’s largest advertising agencies
  • Marian Salzman, chief marketing officer of Porter Novelli
  • Syndicated Advice Columnist Amy Alkon
  • Syndicated columnist Jacey Eckhart
  • Chicago Tribune columnist Ross Werland
  • Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit
  • TV Host/Psychologist Helen Smith
  • Christine B. Whelan, author of “Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women”
  • Major-market-talk-show hosts Al Rantel, Mike McConnell, Ron Smith and Joe Elliott

How fathers are portrayed matters. Fatherlessness is one of the greatest threats our children face. Syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. recently said: “Twenty-eight percent of American kids … are growing up in fatherless homes, heir to all the struggle and dysfunction that condition portends. … Who can deny those [are] appalling numbers[?]”

Among the many ills of fatherlessness are much higher rates of teen drug abuse, crime, pregnancy and school dropouts.

While the media’s negative depiction of fathers certainly isn’t the cause of fatherlessness, it is part of the problem. In a TV culture like ours, the fact that the only fathers one can see on TV are buffoons and villains does influence young people’s perceptions of fathers.

For young men, it makes it less likely they’ll aspire to be fathers, see their own value as fathers or, as Mr. Pitts explains, want to do the “hard but crucial work of being Dad.” For young women, it means they’ll be more likely to be misled into thinking that their children’s fathers aren’t important, that divorce or separation from them is no big deal, or that they should, as is the increasing trend, simply dispense with dad altogether and have children on their own.

To email and fax a protest letter to both Hearst and Lifetime Executives, click here. Also, please call Hearst-Argyle Television, Inc.’s main switchboard at (212) 887-6800.

Contact Hearst & Lifetime Executives about Deadbeat Dads

Below are the phone numbers and email addresses for leading Hearst & Lifetime Executives and Public Relations personnel, as well as their four corporate offices. We suggest campaign supporters email and fax them by clicking here, and also call Hearst at (212) 887-6800 and Lifetime at (310) 556-7500.

When calling, please provide a short, clear message explaining why you oppose Lifetime’s Deadbeat Dads. I suggest you leave your name, phone number and email address. Please remember to always be polite, respectful, and to the point. Please let us know what happened when you called by clicking here.

Running these campaigns takes time and money–to make a tax-deductible contribution to support our efforts, click here.

A few of the many email addresses our letters are going to will probably bounce at some point. We are aware of this, and this is standard for campaigns.

Together with you in the struggle,

Glenn Sacks, MA
Executive Director, Fathers & Families

Ned Holstein, M.D., M.S.
Founder, Chairman of the Board, Fathers & Families

Hearst/Hearst-Argyle Television Executives

David Barrett, President and CEO, Hearst-Argyle Television
Frank Biancuzzo, Senior Vice President
Brian Bracco, Vice President, News
Candy Altman, Vice President, News
Barbara Maushard, Vice President, News
Emerson Coleman, Vice President, Programming
Frank A. Bennack, Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Hearst Corporation HTML
John Conomikes
George Kliavkoff, Executive Vice President & Deputy Group Head, Hearst Entertainment & Syndication
Wendy Goldberg, Vice President of Business Development and Strategy, Hearst Entertainment & Syndication
Scott M. Sassa, President, Hearst Entertainment & Syndication
William Randolph Hearst III
George R Hearst Jr.

Lifetime Entertainment Services is a 50/50 joint venture of Hearst Corporation and The Walt Disney Company.

Hearst-Argyle Television, Inc.
300 West 57th Street
New York, NY 10019-3789
Tel: (212) 887-6800
Fax: (212) 887-6855

Lifetime Senior Executives

President and CEO, Lifetime Networks: Andrea Wong
Co-Chief Marketing Officers: Bob Bibb, Lew Goldstein;
Executive Vice President, Entertainment: JoAnn Alfano
Executive Vice President, Distribution: Lori Conkling
Executive Vice President, Research: Mike Greco
Executive Vice President, Legal, Business Affairs & Human Resources: Pat Langer
Executive Vice President, Ad Sales: Debbie Richman
Executive Vice President, Digital Media & Business Development: Dan Suratt;
Executive Vice President, Public Affairs & Corporate Communications: Meredith Wagner;
Executive Vice President, Finance & Chief Financial Officer: Jim Wesley
Senior Vice President, Scripted Series Development: Nina Lederman
Senior Vice President, Original Movies: Tanya Lopez
Senior Vice President, Reality Programming: Jessica Samet
Senior Vice President, Operations, Information Systems & Technology: Gwynne McConkey
Vice President, Advocacy and Public Affairs: Amanda Crumley
Vice President, Publicity and Talent Relations: Lindsay Drewel
Vice President, Corporate Communications: Les Eisner

Lifetime Public Relations

Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications/Publicity
Josh Sabarra

Senior Vice President, Advocacy and Public Affairs
Danielle Carrig

Vice President, Corporate Communications
Les Eisner

Viewer Relations
Sydney Kline

Kiandry Moya

Lifetime Corporate Offices

NEW YORK (Headquarters)
World Wide Plaza
309 West 49th Street
New York, New York 10019
(212) 424-7000

NEW YORK (Studios)
111 8th Avenue, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10011
(212) 641-3000

2049 Century Park East
Suite 840
Los Angeles, CA 90067
(310) 556-7500

444 North Michigan Ave.
Suite 3270
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 464-1991

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *