AT&T has Reneged to Cease Producing Stereotypes

The Italian American OneVoice Committee charged today that AT&T has reneged on its promise to cease producing and airing advertisements featuring Italian American stereotypes, and the activist group is demanding that AT&T remove the commercial from airwaves immediately.

According to Dr. Emanuele Alfano, chairman of the IAOVC, the airing of an AT&T telephone services commercial featuring a former cast member from “The Sopranos” HBO television series, shatters a promise made to the group in April, that the utility giant would “not tolerate, and will take swift action to cancel, any advertising that could be perceived as offensive.”

At issue is the currently running AT&T telephone services television spot featuring former “Sopranos”cast member Vince Pastore attemptingto intimidate a school teacher on behalf of a student who failed to produce a due science project. The spot intimates that the boy used

AT&T to call Pastore and a cohort to defend the boy and to strong arm the teacher. The advertisement, IAOVC says, was produced and released after AT&T Media Relations director Mark Siegel issued a letter promising to refrain from presenting stereotypical Italian American images. The statement was made in response to the group’s initial protest of an AT&T Broadband radio commercial the IAOVC deemed to be disparaging.

That radio spot – broadcast in Northeast U.S. markets – featured stereotypical Italian American male characters touting access to HBO’s “The Sopranos” series via AT&T Broadband. “That the new commercial is on the air is not surprising,” said Thomas DeGennaro of the IAVOC. “When Mr.Siegel issued the AT&T statement, I didn’t think it went far enough. I wanted him to extrapolate by including the phrase `to any racial, religious or ethnic group.'”

“His refusal – and the airing of this new commercial – justify my suspicion that AT&T had no intention of backing off on offensive advertising practices,” DeGennaro said. The furor over the AT&T phone services commercial comes on the heels of several protests undertaken by the Italian American community to call attention to widespread stereotyping in media and advertising.

Last month, the American Italian Defense Association sued HBO and its AOL/Time Warner parent company on the grounds that “The Sopranos” television series violates the rights of Italian Americans under the individual dignity clause contained in the Illinois State Constitution. According to Emanuele Alfano, American mass media producers refuse to portray Italian Americans in the same benign way they do other ethnic and racial groups. The IAOVC will, he said, continue to protest the use of Italian American stereotypes until media producers understand that such practices are unacceptable.

The One Voice Committee asks that before you write an advertisement, a script or a joke about Italians, you take our Litmus Test,” Alfano said. “Substitute another group or race. If you can’t do it to them, then why do it to us?” Italian-American One Voice Committee is a national network of activists enabling the Italian-American community to act as one united voice when dealing with defamation, discrimination and negative stereotyping. Member organizations provide a liaison with the IA One Voice Committee to disseminate information to the Italian-American community and protest with one voice against each outrage against our heritage, culture and character.