Boy Scouts look to National Geographic to resuscitate membership

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is cozying up to National Geographic Channel in hopes that the network's new reality series, "Are You Tougher than a Boy Scout," can revive dwindling membership.

In an October 2012 update to the BSA's National Council Strategic Plan 2011-2015, the BSA describes the new show as a “strategic partnership” aiming to push the idea that “Scouting is ‘cool’ with youth.” The Progress Report also states that the BSA will begin working on marketing plans with National Geographic for “leveraging the show with Scouting audiences and audiences outside of scouting.”

To that end, the BSA will host a webinar on January 24 that will teach Scouting participants “how [they] can help drive viewership, and more important, how [they] can use the show to drive interest in [their] local programming, recruitment, and fundraising.”

But despite the BSA's high hopes for the new series, the show has already drawn the ire of tens of thousands, who are outraged that National Geographic Channel would support the BSA's ban on gay scouts and scout leaders.

This week, GLAAD joined Scouts for Equality and 20 year-old gay Eagle Scout Will Oliver to call on National Geographic Channel to denounce the BSA's anti-gay policies. Will's Change.org petition urging National Geographic to air a disclaimer clarifying its views has collected over 13,000 signatures.

So far, however, National Geographic isn't budging, saying that the network "appreciate[s] all points of view on the topic, but when people see our show they will realize it has nothing to do with this debate..."

The partnership has even been heralded by National Geographic execs. “Partnering not only with [producer] Thom Beers, but also with an organization as renowned as the Boy Scouts of America is an incredible opportunity for us to try something different,” National Geographic Channel Executive Vice President of Programming Michael Cascio said in a statement released throgh the BSA last year.

“It’s all too clear that this show is just a marketing ploy, crafted by the BSA to boost dwindling membership and distract Americans from the Scouts’ long history of discrimination,” says GLAAD President Herndon Graddick. “National Geographic Channel is the means to that end and must therefore make it clear where the network stands.”

Join GLAAD, Scouts for Equality and 20 year-old Eagle Scout Will Oliver to urge National Geographic Channel to speak out against discrimination -- sign Will's Change.org petition here.

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