CBS Allows Anti-Choice SuperBowl Ad Despite “No Advocacy in Advertising” Policy

Jodi Jacobson

CBS yesterday approved the script for a Focus on the Family anti-choice ad to be aired during the superbowl, despite the network's own written policy against advocacy ads.

Earlier this week we reported on the announcement by Focus on the Family that it would spent upwards of $2.5 million to air a “life- and family-affirming
television ad during the Super Bowl on Feb. 7 featuring 2007
Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and his mother, Pam.  Reports indicated the ad would “likely to be
an anti-abortion message
chronicling Pam Tebow’s 1987 pregnancy. After getting sick during a
mission trip to the Philippines, she ignored a recommendation by
doctors to abort her fifth child and gave birth to Tim.”

Today, Amanda Terkel of Thinkprogress reports that according to MediaDailyNews CBS yesterday approved the Focus on the Family script:

CBS executives approved a script for a Super Bowl spot from evangelical group Focus on the Family, which suggests the ad will not carry a pro-life message — at least an overt one.

The network has a policy of prohibiting advocacy ads, even
ones that carry an “implicit” endorsement for a side in a public debate.

A CBS spokesman did say the network will review the video version of
the spot before giving it the final green light, but does not
anticipate any hurdles.

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Terkel points out that the networks and the NFL have repeatedly rejected advocacy ads —
including by progressive organizations.

In 2004, CBS rejected
MoveOn.org’s 30-second ad about President Bush, which Salon called “a low-key attack on Bush’s fiscal irresponsibility
that’s unlikely to make anyone very angry.” The network has said that
it doesn’t accept spots where “substantial elements of the community
(are) in opposition to one another.” Last year, NBC rejected a
30-second public service announcement about marriage equality. Anti-consumerist activist Kalle Lasn and PETA have also had their ads turned down under the “no advocacy” policy.

But lo and behold, the policy leaves room for interpretation such that virulent anti-choice–and I would argue anti-family–organizations such as Focus get to air their messages. Terkel quotes Alex Jones, director of the Joan
Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard,
as saying:

The rules are exactly what the owner of the news medium wants them to be, and they are not rules, they are simply choices.
For many news organizations, the rules are governed by such things as
taste and accuracy. In the case of some, the question of taste slips
over into finding the message disagreeable or believing that the
audience would find that message disagreeable. The long and short of it is they don’t have to run any advertisement they don’t want to.

So despite the stated policy, which ostensibly is in place to provide uniformity and transparency in decision-making, the networks clearly do what they want. 

Terkel writes that last year:

ThinkProgress documented that NBC ran anti-smoking and anti-steroids ads, even though it rejected the marriage equality ad and a pro-life ad because it was supposedly banning all advocacy spots. In the past, CBS also approved “an anti-smoking spot,
a public service announcement about AIDS, and a commercial from the
White House Office of National Drug Control Policy” during the Super
Bowl.

So, she states, "even though CBS accepted Focus on the Family’s ad and the network
has a “no advocacy” policy, CBS may still allow the group to advocate a
right-wing position."

Makes sense, huh?

Like I said before, let’s see if Focus can put its money on families in which women and children face domestic abuse at the hands of violent partners (since shelters are hurting desperately in this economic environment) and if they do some ads encouraging all those pro-lifers to vote for funding to support the families now without sufficient food or health care, or the devastating effects of the loss of jobs.

I guess it is just that much easier to just keep the focus on controlling women. 

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