Nonprofit Newswire | Disney Implicated in Nonprofit’s Eviction

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March 10, 2010, New York Times | Imagine winning a hard-fought campaign, a landmark victory for your nonprofit. You’re respected by your peers, and your work is even scheduled to be honored at the annual gala. All is rosy, right? It wasn’t for one small, Boston-based nonprofit, whose successful advocacy landed them in very hot water. The organization, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, overseen by famed child psychiatrist Alvin F. Poissaint, was issued an eviction notice by their parent organization, the Harvard-affiliated Judge Baker Children’s Center, soon after winning an out-of-court settlement in a class action suit against the Walt Disney Company. ??At the center of their campaign were the Baby Einstein DVDs, which Disney first marketed as “educational” videos for infants 6 months to 2 years old, featuring bright colors and puppets. A complaint to the Federal Trade Commission prompted the company to drop the term “educational” from its marketing, and the threat of a subsequent law suit won parents a refund of $15.99 for up to four “Baby Einstein” DVDs per household. Apparently, the videos did not, in fact, create baby geniuses. They were quite profitable however. In another New York Times article on October 23, 2009 it was reported that “Baby Einstein controlled 90 percent of the baby media market, and sold $200 million worth of products annually.” The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood objected to claims that the DVD’s were educational citing research that shows that television viewing is harmful to young children.?? On the heels of the settlement, Disney contacted the Judge Baker Children’s Center, who in turn told the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood not to speak to the press, especially about Baby Einstein. Judge Baker also intimated that Disney was threatening a lawsuit. The official explanation for the ouster came via an inter-office notice; the methods used in the campaign—namely, litigation—were at the root of the conflict. For Judge Baker, it seems, advocacy had more appeal when it wasn’t aimed at such a powerful corporate adversary.—James David Morgan