The United Church of Christ (UCC) plans to run a major ad campaign in December to raise public <$Ad$>awareness of the denomination. One of the ads is meant, in the words of a UCC press release, to convey the message “that — like Jesus — the United Church of Christ seeks to welcome all people, regardless of ability, age, race, economic circumstance or sexual orientation.”
You can see the ad here — it features two burly bouncers turning various people away from a church service. And if you watch it you’ll see that the broad message of inclusion over intolerance places a prominent emphasis on acceptance of homosexuals in the life of the church.
Yet, according to a press release out this evening from the UCC, both CBS and NBC have refused to air the ad because the subject matter is “too controversial.”
Again, look at the ad because the spot raises the topic in about as innocuous and uncontroversial a way as is imaginable. Homosexuality is never even broached explicitly.
(This case is similar to this instance last September when CNN refused to air an ad by the Log Cabin Republicans because it too was deemed “too controversial”. In that case, at least the ad was hard-hitting. But even that feeble excuse doesn’t apply in this case.)
According to the UCC press release, CBS explained its decision, in part, as follows …
“Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations,” reads an explanation from CBS, “and the fact the Executive Branch has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast on the [CBS and UPN] networks.”
(I’m unclear on why the CBS statement would speak for CBS and UPN. And at first I wondered whether the dispute was with an affiliate or a station owner who owns both CBS and UPN affiliates. But the press release seems quite specific and clear that the ads have been rejected by both the “CBS and NBC television networks.”)
If this is really the case, we seem now to be in a country where political campaigns can be waged with flurries of ads replete with demonstrable falsehoods. And yet clear and tame political speech aimed at a pressing national debate isn’t acceptable.
CBS’s explanation seems to rest on the preposterous argument that because the ad addresses a major public debate that that makes it “unacceptable”.
Or is it just that discussing homosexuality is “unacceptable”?
Late Update: As numerous more media-consolidation-savvy TPM readers have now pointed out to, Viacom owns both CBS and UPN, thus the joint refusal to air the ad.