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Wednesday, January 28, 2004

CBS Defends Censoring MoveOn Ad

Link from Drudge:

The policy is decades old. It is designed to prevent those with means to produce and purchase network advertising from having undue influence on "controversial issues of public importance." From the Network's perspective, we believe our viewers are better served by the balance and perspective such issues can be afforded within our news programming.

So basically an advocacy group can't get its views onto CBS air without the message being filtered by CBS News such that it won't ruffle the feathers of their advertisers. The public owns the airwaves, not Viacom.

Suggestions have also been made that we are violating our own policy by allowing the airing of messages that aim to curb drug abuse and smoking by minors. CBS is unaware of responsible groups that advocate drug abuse and smoking by minors, so it is hard to understand how these laudable efforts would constitute "controversial issues."

Nice attempt at a dodge there. The ads that "aim to curb drug abuse" have actually made false claims about drugs supporting terrorism, for example. They also are part of the infrastructure supporting this country's wrong-headed drug policies. Far be it from CBS to recognize complexity, I guess.

In recent years, a cottage industry has arisen among groups that submit advocacy ads that they know will be rejected. They then resort to press releases and Internet diatribes about the rejection to reap considerable free media attention and financial contributions to support their cause. Editors and potential contributors beware.

Actually, MoveOn sincerely did want the ad to be on TV, no matter what nefarious purpose CBS wants to see behind this all.

If CBS really wants to ban all advocacy that's less bothersome to me, but that's really not what they do right now. I would prefer that they accept ads from whoever buys time since that comports more with my feelings of how things should be. I am in favor of all ideas getting a public airing, without any suits in a news department deciding what can or can't be aired. Sure, some viewpoints I really dislike will get on the air but consider: 1) The policy doesn't apply to local ads, so these things will get aired, just not on national TV--if the harm were so bad they would be banned across the board, right? 2) Commercial ads have plenty of pernicious effects already, such as convincing millions of people that they need to be on lots of prescription drugs when they don't. How much additional damage will advocacy ads really do?

And please recall, while I support the general mission of MoveOn, I don't actually like the ad that was picked as the winner of the contest--I think it's statement on the size of the deficit is inaccurate. I'm arguing from principle here.

ALSO: Meanwhile on Drudge, he's touting a Times article that reports Bush is seeking a major increase in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. What the hell?