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America Tunes Out 'Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout?'

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Tonight National Geographic Channel's Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout? airs back-to-back episodes ending in the season finale. The series' low ratings prove that America will not tune in to the Boy Scouts anti-gay discrimination and is ready to see a change from the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).

Only 439,000 households in the United States tuned in to the premiere of Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout? on March 4. This is not a hit by National Geographic Channel standards: the second season of Doomsday Preppers premiered to 1.3 million households, factual drama film Killing Lincoln premiered to 3.4 million viewers and SEAL Team Six averaged 2.7 million viewers in its debut. The premiere of Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout? failed to make the top 32 list of most-watched primetime cable TV shows that night and has not cracked the top 100 in recent weeks.

GLAAD joined gay Eagle Scout Will Oliver to deliver more than 120,000 Change.org petition signatures to National Geographic Channel headquarters in Washington, D.C. on March 4, calling on the network to denounce the Boy Scouts' ban on gay scouts and scout leaders before that night's premiere of Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout?.

Oliver asked the network to issue the following disclaiming before all episodes of Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout?:

The current membership policy of the Boy Scouts of America goes against the policy of National Geographic Channel and the National Geographic Society. National Geographic Channel is an equal opportunity employer and does not support discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The network accepted the petition and agreed to publish a blog post from Will on its website, "A #ToughScout is Brave Enough to Support Gay Youth," explaining why the Boy Scouts' anti-gay policy is harmful to youth. The network stated that it would not be issuing a disclaimer or speaking out on the anti-gay ban.

Supporters of Will's Change.org petition took over the official show hashtag #toughscout leading up to the premiere. In an effort to drown out those tweets calling for National Geographic Channel to air a disclaimer, the channel decided to instead promote new hashtag #AreYouTougher.

Oliver, who also traveled to the Boy Scouts of America’s headquarters in February with the support of GLAAD to deliver more than 1.4 million Change.org petition signatures urging the Boy Scouts to end their national ban on gay Scouts and leaders, said that National Geographic Channel was failing its viewers by not issuing a strong condemnation of anti-gay discrimination.

Documents, uncovered by GLAAD, reveal that the show was actually meant as a commercial for one of the most anti-gay organizations in the country, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).

In the October 2012 Progress Report of the BSA's National Council Strategic Plan 2011-2015, the organization cites its relationship with NatGeo as a “strategic partnership,” going on to describe the show as a tool to push the idea that “Scouting is ‘cool’ with youth.” The Progress Report states that the BSA will work on marketing plans with NatGeo for “leveraging the show with Scouting audiences and audiences outside of scouting.”

GLAAD first started calls for the Boy Scouts of America to end its ban on gay scouts and scout leaders in April 2012 after Jennifer Tyrrell, a mom and den leader from Ohio was removed from her 7-year-old’s Cub Scout Pack for being gay. Tyrrell’s Change.org petition has attracted more than 343,000 signatures in support of ending the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay Scouts and leaders.

GLAAD and Scouts for Equality have also called attention to other Americans who are continuing to be harmed by the anti-gay policy, including 18 year-old gay Scout Ryan Andresen, who was denied his Eagle award in October 2012 because he’s gay. Ryan’s mom later launched a Change.org petition calling on the BSA to give Ryan the award he has earned. That petition now boasts over 477,000 signatures.

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