Viewers for Quality Television

From Fanlore
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Name: Viewers for Quality Television
Date(s): 1984-2000
Profit/Nonprofit: non-proift, fan-run
Country based in: USA
Focus: multifandom
External Links: Wikipedia
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Viewers for Quality Television was a fan organization created by Dorothy Swanson to pressure networks and companies via fan letters to keep shows on the air.

a 1993 donation form

It was described by one fan as a "continuing quest to find alternatives to a totally Neilsen-based 'TV economy." [1] A 1993 description from The Viewer #61: "Viewers for Quality Television, Inc., a non-profit, tax-exempt organization, was founded in 1984 to champion the cause of quality in commercial network television and to support those shows which its participants feel reflect that quality."

Swanson dissolved VQT in 2000 after the organization's membership dropped to 1,000 members (down from a peak of 5,000 members), which reduced the funding for the organization.

"Viewers for Quality Television" was the subject of the 2018 documentary United We Fan.

The Newsletter

The organization had a newsletter called The Viewer.

VQT Awards

photos from the 1989 awards, printed in Beauty and The Beast: The Newsletter #5

Sample Year: 1992-93

The "Endorsed Series" in 1992-93: Brooklyn Bridge, Homefront, I'll Fly Away, Law & Order, Life Goes On, Mad About You, Murphy Brown, The Wonder Years, Northern Exposure, Picket Fences, Quantum Leap, Reasonable Doubts, Roseanne, Seinfeld, Star Trek: TNG, and 60 Minutes.

"Tentative Support" in 1992-93: was given to: "Cheers, Civil Wars, Coach, Crime & Punishment, The Commish, Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman, Evening Shade, Home Improvement, Homicide: Life on the Streets, PrimeTime Live, The Simpsons, Sisters, Young Indiana Jones, 20/20, and In the Heat of the Night.

A 1988 Announcement: The Poll

From the fourth issue of Beauty and The Beast: The Newsletter (December 1988):

The Viewers for Quality Television will be doing a survey of their membership during December. This poll will determine who gets on their approved list, and who stays on the tentative list. If you have joined, be sure to return your poll card. If you have not joined yet, you will be too late this year to participate in the poll, but if you join soon, you should be eligible to vote for best actor, actress, and so on.

1989 Descriptions

From Donna Koich in Beauty and The Beast: The Newsletter #5 (March 1989):

I've been involved in Star Trek fandom since its beginning, but I was never as active in ST as I have been in B&tB fandom. I get letters daily from others telling me how this show has inspired them to do things they've never done before, like writing letters to the network, the show, going to cons, joining clubs, checking weekly ratings, haunting magazine shelves for articles on the show, bringing out dormant creativity in writing and drawing, etc. The list goes on. We are all aware of the problems plaguing the TV industry at this time. The three networks viewership continues to decline yearly since the rise in independents, cable and VCR's. The writer's strike did not help. As of now, viewership for CBS, ABC, and NBC is down to 66%, a 6% drop just since September. Organization is the key word behind anything worthy of support. Beauty and the Beast is definitely worthy of all our support. I am convinced after listening to everything Perlman, Koslow, Martin, Greenlee, LeMasters, Poltrack, etc. have said about all the letters and polls, articles, critical acclaim, not to mention the 12 Emmy nominations (which constituted wonderful support from its TV peers), that all this positive, visible support is what kept the show on the air. The ratings weren't all that great. CBS just couldn't have dared to cancel it or even threatened to cancel it.

Anything we all can do to ensure the show's longevity and renewal (which isn't that far off) should be done. The Beauty and the Beast Fan Club is large and is known by the studio and Republic. But there is another organization which is larger, respected for its established clout, and is known by all in the TV industry. I am speaking, of course, of the Viewers for Quality Television run by Dorothy Swanson who can be reached at PO Box 195, Fairfax Station, VA 22039, 1-703-425-0075. Membership is only $15 a year; a little more to become a "sustaining" member entitles you to some special goodies and extra courtesies, such as being on their nominations panel as I was this year. The VQT is a vital organization that supports the show and can do much to ensure B&tB stays on a long time—but it needs all our support through membership! Without many loyal supporters in the VQT, B&tB will lose a powerful ally.

The VQT is a wonderful and fun group that supports all quality TV. For those of you have not read my con reports in the B&tB letterzines, in September I attended the VQT annual convention in Hollywood September 15-18. We were the audience at a Designing Women taping 9/15. I met Ron Koslow at the celebrity meet-n-greet on 9/16 and talked with him about an hour. Our raffle and auction on 9/16 of hundreds of things donated to the VQT from all the studios netted me many items, including pics and an original script personalized by Ron Perlman, not to mention a seat at Ron Perlman's table for the 9/17 banquet, where I spent the most marvelous 31/2 hours of my life sitting across from this most gracious man. We had voted him Best Dramatic Actor 1987-1988. His wife, Opal Stone, and manager, Erwin More, were present; otherwise it was just a total of 10 of us at his table. Fourteen awards were handed out that evening, just like the Academy Awards. The stars were all there and many producers and behind the scenes persons; it was the most memorable evening ever.

As a sustaining member of the VQT, I was on the nominations panel to determine which nominees from the Endorsed and Tentatively Endorsed shows would go to the general membership for balloting. Everyone from the cast, writers, directors, etc. was nominated, but only Perlman won. I firmly believe that if more B&tB fans had known about and been members of the VQT this past year, Perlman would not have been the only B&tB person to win an award (his first ever, he said). They all deserved to win. I sincerely hope everyone in the Beauty and the Beast Fan Club will join the VQT now. Their December ballot for Endorsement is already out. The show needs to win VQT Endorsement to be eligible for anything in the way of awards, VQT support, inclusion in their newsletter, etc. I'd like to see everyone get nominated again next year, win, and turn next year's VQT Hollywood con into a VQT/B&tB con. Think of it - 7 banquet tables containing B&tB people and us! -- Donna Koich

From Becky Vaughn in a letter to Beauty and the Beast (TV) letterzine Passages #12:

Hello. Please let me introduce myself and the organization I represent, in the hopes that together we can work some magic of our own.

I am a member of "VQT" (Viewers for Quality Television) and will be Coordinator of the new Sponsor Chairman Program. Let me first explain what this Program is and how it will work. We will have volunteer Sponsor Chairmen in cities throughout the country who will watch their assigned program(s) and make a record of the commercials aired before, during, and after each program. They will then compile all the information necessary to have a complete address, and hopefully, a "contact name" for the parent company of each product advertised. These lists wiU be forwarded to me and I will load the information into my computer; then as the information changes, I will be able to keep it current.

My name and address will be listed in future VQT Newsletters and, for a SASE, the viewer will be able to receive a copy of any list for any program they are concerned about. We, as an organization, have noted the producers' and networks' failure to recognize any concerted effort to write letters (i.e., the failure to prolong the life of "Frank's Place," and "A Year In The Life"). The same campaigns that saved "Cagney and Lacey" and "Designing Women" did not work this time, so we have decided to try a different tactic. We will now aim for the affiliates and the sponsors. This is where we are hoping to make an impression.

What we need to do now is inspire people to WRITE, AND SOON, and to also encourage any of their friends and family to write, too. I realize the list of sponsors is long and this is a time-consuming project, but do we really want to let this wonderful program go by the wayside just because we didn't let our opinion be heard? The letters do not need to be long and flowery-short and sweet will get the point across just as well and will take much less time to write. But at least we will be letting the sponsors know that we are watching this program and seeing their advertising, which is what the "bottom line" is all about to begin with.

One thing we need to be careful of though, is not to appear to be an "organized letter-writing campaign" as this is regarded as "fandom" and apparently our opinion doesn't count. Please, write as individuals, not mentioning your fandom ties.

The entire VQT organization appreciates any effort made on behalf of B&B, and we can only hope and pray this effort pays off. If you would like any further information or have any questions, please contact me at the above address. Thank you so much for your help.

1993 Description

From The Viewer #61 (April 1993):

With the networks' growing tendency to abandon the hour long drama, it becomes more important than ever for our voices to be heard.

Viewers for Quality Television is an organization that strives to encourage provocative, heart-warming entertainment on network television. VQT was named one of the 100 most influential forces in the industry, according to last fall's Entertainment Weekly magazine, but more even more support is needed in today's difficult environment.

Participants in VQT get about 10 newsletters a year, that provide a forum to discuss programs; list addresses of networks, shows and sponsors; and offer interviews with actors and producers. Several times a year, "members" rate the shows on surveys, as an alternative to the Nielsen method of evaluating a program's worth. Twice a year, participants vote on shows to endorse. And annually, a convention is held in Los Angeles, offering panel discussions with industry professionals (actors as well as producers and network executives) and the Awards Banquet, which most of the winners attend.

Viewers for Quality Television does not urge censorship or boycotting; the intention is to promote, preserve and nurture the option of quality programming; an option that is becoming endangered. If you would like to join the effort, please send a self-addressed stamped envelope to the address below, or fill in the form and mail it in.

VQT and Beauty and the Beast

This organization became highly visible to Beauty and the Beast (TV) fans as a way to get their voices heard. Fans of that show were extremely frustrated with the Neilson Ratings, and hoped that VQT would be an alternative.

Many fans flooded VQT with their attention and support, which in some ways was good in terms of money and visibility. But B&B fans were so prevalent and vocal that they tended to overshadow the overall goal and focus of VQT.

Further Reading


  1. ^ from Stephanie Wiltse in Pipeline v.3 n.4/5 (April/May 1990)