CBS and NBC Refuse
American Street, by Jude Nagurney Camwell, December 2, 2004
"It's ironic that after a political season awash in commercials based on fear and deception by both parties seen on all the major networks, an ad with a message of welcome and inclusion would be deemed too controversial. What's going on here?"
-- Rev. John H. Thomas, the UCC's general minister and president
The CBS and NBC networks have refused to run a paid advertisement from the United Church of Christ.
Americans should be concerned. CBS and NBC are categorizing the UCC ad as nothing more than controversial “advocacy advertising”.
"All ads are advocacy; what else is an advertisement if not an opportunity to advocate for your toothpaste or your cause?” said the Rev. Nancy S. Taylor, president of the Massachusetts conference of the United Church of Christ, the largest Protestant denomination in the state. "The ads are about hospitality and a wide welcome. And how that is controversial – I find that extraordinary. We are stunned."[quote from Boston Globe story by Michael Paulson]
The ad has been accepted at ABC Family, AMC, BET, Discovery, Fox, Hallmark, History, Nick@Nite, TBS, TNT, Travel and TV Land. Potential media buys are still pending with CNN, Lifetime, Comedy Central and MSNBC. UCC church executives said they accepted the ABC network's position that it did not accept any religious advertising.
"The consolidation of TV network ownership into the hands of a few executives today puts freedom of speech and freedom of religious expression in jeopardy," says former FCC Commissioner Gloria Tristani, currently managing director of the UCC's Office of Communication. "By refusing to air the United Church of Christ's paid commercial, CBS and NBC are stifling religious expression. They are denying the communities they serve a suitable access to differing ideas and expressions."
Adds Andrew Schwartzman, president and CEO of the not-for-profit Media Access Project in Washington, D.C., "This is an abuse of the broadcasters' duty to inform their viewers on issues of importance to the community. After all, these stations don't mind carrying shocking, attention-getting programming, because they do that every night.
According to the NY Times, the commercial offers the message, "Jesus didn't turn away people and neither do we." It concludes with a panorama of people, including two young women, one of whom has her arm around the other. It never mentions the word "gay."
Janet Jackson’s tit was more likely to see the light of day on CBS than a commercial from this Christian church.
On ABC, you’re far more likely to see a scantily clad Desperate Housewife breathlessly humping her neighbor than to see a commercial from this bedrock church.
NBC can show you a Cialis commercial with that incredibly annoying and lame “blues” (white man’s sex) music 60 times a day, but they shirk from showing a welcoming and inclusive ad from a mainstream American church.
It was perfectly fine to air and discuss the radical cleric Jerry Falwell’s accusation of gays being “enemies of America” just last Sunday on Meet the Press:
MR. RUSSERT: I want to ask Reverend Falwell about something and broaden the conversation. We talked about Iraq and the war on terrorism. Something that you said two days after September 11, when you were with Reverend Pat Robertson: "I fear... that [September 11th] is only the beginning. ...If, in fact, God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve ... I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle ... all of them who have tried to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say `you helped this happen.'"
DR. FALWELL: And I went on to say in a sleeping church, a lethargic church likewise is responsible.
What has changed, you ask? Why are CBS and NBC turning their backs on a church whose foundations are as old as America itself?
The White House political agenda. It's the only reason I can imagine NBC and CBS are cowering. They're under the Bush administration's careful eye and powerful thumb. They are willing to shut out the UCC's ad on behalf of assuring their own comfortable market survival by towing the corporate/government line. One hand feeds the other. They know they won't be able to survive on five loaves of bread and two measly fish. Blessed are the meek, but when it comes to letting them advertise on CBS or NBC, they can take a long walk off a short pier.
The hypocrites at the head of these morally warped networks aim to show American people eating worms and bugs for cheap ratings, and then ban a liberal American church with a message of kindness and unconditional acceptance from advertising on their network. (I direct that toward ABC as well, for why should we allow a major network to shut out mainstream religious advertising, taking into consideration all the crappy and mind-numbing advertising to which we're now subjected?)
"This is an opportunity for the United Church of Christ to renew its distinctive voice as a people of welcome, justice and passion for the Gospel. This initiative will help us fall in love again with the United Church of Christ, be generous in financial support, and turn our hearts toward a world that needs to experience the presence, embrace, and encouragement of Jesus."
"I've been trying to pull together several seemingly unrelated threads of thoughts out of inchoate contemplation and weave them together into a tapestry showing how these radically different ideas and events form a coherent picture, a picture that can warn and guide us.
It hasn't been easy..."
A Tapestry of Recent History
At Random Fate, Jack says he's going to sort through disparate threads and pull together what I picture as a quilt composed of many patches. Each patch depicts a chaotic scene from the world's most recent history. What are we to make of the finished product?
"I see relationships between quantum mechanics, the pre-election video released by Osama bin Laden, the apparent divide between the Red States and the Blue States, the reaction in blogworld to the retirement of Dan Rather, the controversy over the Marine shooting an apparently surrendered man in Iraq and the reporting of the incident, other aspects of the ongoing fighting in Iraq, the opposition of France to almost every US foreign policy, the election in Ukraine and the consequent increased visibility of the attempt by Vladimir Putin at establishing a Russian version of the Monroe Doctrine, and several other threads in the tangled skein of the world.
Hopefully, I can get this pulled together before the beginning of next week, which is going to be a very busy at work for me."