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CBS and NBC shut door on church ad

Old 12-02-04, 05:49 PM
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CBS and NBC shut door on church ad

CBS and NBC shut door on church ad

By Bonnie Miller Rubin and Manya A. Brachear, Tribune staff reporters. Tribune staff reporter John Cook contributed to this report
Published December 2, 2004

As church bells chime in the background, a burly bouncer guards the velvet ropes at the church entrance.

"No, step aside, please," he tells two men holding hands. "I don't think so," he says to a young black girl, blocking her entrance. A Hispanic man and a person in a wheelchair also are denied entry.

The scene fades to black and a message: "Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we."

Hoping to boost the numbers of a dwindling denomination, the United Church of Christ launched a nationwide television ad campaign Wednesday, banking on this 30-second spot to let all viewers know they are welcome in the pews.

But two major networks have declined to air the ad, deeming it too controversial because it champions one side of the public debate on gay relationships.

Representatives for both CBS and NBC cited long-standing policies against accepting what is known as issue advertising.

A written explanation that the church received from CBS said the network found the spot unacceptable because it challenges the exclusion of minorities by other institutions and because "the executive branch has recently proposed a Constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman."

United Church of Christ spokeswoman Barb Powell said the church was surprised at the networks' decision.

"They said the ad was proselytizing and advocating a particular viewpoint over another," Powell said. We frankly don't see the ad like that."

Gloria Tristani, managing director of communications for the church and former member of the Federal Communications Commission, argued that the rejection violates the 1st Amendment.

"It's basically telling this church you can't make this appeal," she said. "The 1st Amendment wasn't just about political speech. It was also about freedom of religious expression."

The United Church of Christ, whose membership has fallen from 1.7 million in 1989 to 1.3 million, joins a number of denominations trying to combat that trend with major advertising campaigns.

The United Methodist Church ran a series of commercials earlier this year. But network executives say those ads stayed away from hot-button issues and instead sounded more like public service announcements.

Alan Wolfe, a professor of religion at Boston College, said he was surprised that networks would shy away from a message of inclusiveness.

"CBS and NBC seem to be afraid, not of stirring controversy, but of alienating potential viewers, the kind, moreover, that like to organize boycotts and write letters," Wolfe said. "There may be a new form of political correctness arising in America, one in which attempts are made to avoid violating the sensibilities, not of women or racial minorities, but of conservative Christians."

Though controversial advocacy ads may have seemed inescapable to many television viewers during the recent election season, all of the national broadcast networks have turned such ads away for decades.

Network executives have previously explained the policy by saying they did not want wealthy advocates to dominate public debate on the airwaves.

Cable networks and local stations, however, tend to have less restrictive policies and often air such ads.

Randy Weissman, the Tribune's deputy managing editor for operations, said the newspaper accepts advocacy ads as long as they are not obscene and contain the name of the organization buying the ad.

On Wednesday, TV executives accused the United Church of Christ of seeking publicity by submitting an ad that was likely to be rejected so the group could accuse the networks of censorship. They pointed out that another United Church of Christ ad, featuring many of the same actors, was accepted for broadcast by CBS and NBC.

But the United Church of Christ said the rejection of the "bouncer" ad caught them off guard. Focus groups had responded positively to the commercial, and in six test markets--including Cleveland, where the church is based--attendance increased by 25 percent, Powell said.

When Rev. Richard Lanford, pastor at St. Peter's United Church of Christ in Skokie, saw the commercial a few months ago at a national training session, he came away impressed with the fact that "it didn't hammer you over the head."

"The goal was to reach out to people who either fell away or people who felt not really welcome, for whatever reason, and I think it accomplished that," he said.

But Lanford concedes the sneak preview raised some concerns.

"I knew it was edgy and not everyone was there yet," he said. "I thought some individuals and some churches might have a problem, but it never occurred to me that it would be the networks who would say, `Too hot!'"

Peter LaBarbera, executive director of the Illinois Family Institute, gave a strong thumbs up to the networks' decision.

He said that in the late 1990s, conservative groups wanted to run a commercial featuring "ex-homosexuals who had been converted back to being heterosexuals." Under pressure from gay-rights groups, the networks refused to accept the spots.

"At least they're being consistent," LaBarbera said.

Karl Maurer, vice president of Catholic Citizens of Illinois, also endorsed the networks' stand, calling the commercials "false advertising."

"When the Roman soldiers in the Gospel came to Jesus and said, `How can I be saved?' Jesus did not respond, `Be inclusive.' Jesus responded, "Follow the commandments.'"

The ads with the bouncer have been cleared to air on a number of cable channels, including ABC Family, AMC, BET, Discovery, Hallmark, History, Nick at Nite, TBS and TNT.

It also was accepted to air on Fox, whose spokesman said the network does not have a blanket policy against issue ads and judges each on a case-by-case basis.

"It's not an advocacy ad," Scott Grogin said of the bouncer commercial. "It's saying, `We're an inclusive church.'"

ABC spokeswoman Julie Hoover declined to say whether the network had accepted the ad but said ABC "does not generally accept paid advertising that espouses a particular religious doctrine."

Rev. Jane Fisler Hoffman, minister of the Illinois conference of the United Church of Christ, said an effort is under way to mobilize the 294 congregations in northern Illinois to raise funds to air the ad through local network affiliates.

"Some people have experienced painful rejection in some churches," she said. "We're not trying to criticize or critique anybody. We believe our church should be welcoming all people, not turning anybody away."
http://www.chicagotribune.com/busine...l=chi-news-hed
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Old 12-02-04, 05:57 PM
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But Lanford concedes the sneak preview raised some concerns.

"I knew it was edgy and not everyone was there yet," he said.


Dude!!!

(throws tape ball at the Reverend)
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Old 12-02-04, 06:09 PM
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But two major networks have declined to air the ad, deeming it too controversial because it champions one side of the public debate on gay relationships.
I heard a bit on this on NPR tonight... I couldn't help but wonder how much of this "banning" was based more on an interest of creating more controversy than anything else.

Last edited by nemein; 12-02-04 at 08:22 PM.
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Old 12-02-04, 06:09 PM
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I saw the ad on CNN yesterday. You can watch it at http://www.stillspeaking.com and then try to figure out what exactly is so objectionable about it.
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Old 12-02-04, 06:21 PM
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I wonder if they have banned similar ads that champion the other side of gay marriage.
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Old 12-02-04, 06:26 PM
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But two major networks have declined to air the ad, deeming it too controversial because it champions one side of the public debate on gay relationships.

You may be right. Perhaps it was just talking about happy friendships.
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Old 12-02-04, 06:34 PM
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Tricky, dork. Very tricky.
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Old 12-02-04, 06:38 PM
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Originally posted by kvrdave
Tricky, dork. Very tricky.
I deleted my post because I thought I had misunderstood what you were getting at. But it turns out I hadn't. Look at the ad and tell me what it says about gay marriage.
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Old 12-02-04, 06:57 PM
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Originally posted by dork
I deleted my post because I thought I had misunderstood what you were getting at. But it turns out I hadn't. Look at the ad and tell me what it says about gay marriage.
I saw the ad and have no idea what is objectionable. However, the article says that the ad was turned down becuase it takes one side of the gay relationship issue. I was merely wondering if ads on the other side of the issue were turned away for that reason as well.

You just don't like me much, dork.
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Old 12-02-04, 07:30 PM
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I heard a guy saying that he thought its more about not knowing where the limits are any more. He placed it on the changes at teh FCC.

I saw that add and though WTF this seems fine to me. Anyone see it and think it was bad?
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Old 12-02-04, 07:54 PM
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"Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we."
Good for them. It's about time someone finally pointed out what Christ is REALLY about. Listen up "'Christian' Right".
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Old 12-02-04, 08:07 PM
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ABC won't air it either due to a policy of not airing religious ads, according to them.

Some Christian fundamentalists are supporting the United Church of Christ's right to have the ad played. They feel that if the networks can slience the "liberal" Christians, the fundamentalists will be next.
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Old 12-02-04, 08:24 PM
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Good for them. It's about time someone finally pointed out what Christ is REALLY about. Listen up "'Christian' Right".
Jesus also told people they should "go and sin no more"... this is something most people don't want to hear these days.
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Old 12-02-04, 08:38 PM
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damn liberal media - oh wait...
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Old 12-02-04, 09:10 PM
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Originally posted by kvrdave

You just don't like me much, dork.
D, WNTY.
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Old 12-02-04, 10:28 PM
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I have to side with the networks because this is NOT about free speech (in before someone says it is), it's about who owns the media networks and they have every right (no pun intended) to use what commercials and advertisers they want.
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Old 12-03-04, 12:20 AM
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Originally posted by nemein
Jesus also told people they should "go and sin no more"... this is something most people don't want to hear these days.
Exactly.
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Old 12-03-04, 12:49 AM
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I don't know that that means.
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Old 12-03-04, 12:58 AM
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Originally posted by nemein
Jesus also told people they should "go and sin no more"... this is something most people don't want to hear these days.
Actually, he only said that to one person.
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Old 12-03-04, 06:59 AM
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Originally posted by Numanoid
Actually, he only said that to one person.
To which He would reply, "How many times do I need to tell you?!"

--------------
I saw the ad. Although I don't agree with that church's beliefs, I found the ad only "mildly offensive". They're an ultra-liberal church and in essence, not much different than most U.S. Episcopal churches (wrt to homosexuality). People can watch that ad and clearly see for themselves where this church stands.

I am far more offended, bordering on outrage, over the Mormon (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) TV ads. Those are TOTALLY deceptive.

Last edited by sracer; 12-03-04 at 07:08 AM.
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Old 12-03-04, 07:21 AM
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I haven't seen the Mor<strike>m</strike>on TV ads.
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Old 12-03-04, 07:43 AM
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Originally posted by kvrdave
I don't know that that means.
According to my secret decoder ring (which is on the fritz), it means either:

Dave, Why Not Turkey Yolks

or

Dave, Who Needs Tanned Yaks



Glad I could help.
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Old 12-03-04, 08:47 AM
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"CBS and NBC seem to be afraid, not of stirring controversy, but of alienating potential viewers, the kind, moreover, that like to organize boycotts and write letters," Wolfe said. "There may be a new form of political correctness arising in America, one in which attempts are made to avoid violating the sensibilities, not of women or racial minorities, but of conservative Christians."
Um how about Capitalism at it's best. The same as the Dixie Chicks learned

Some Christian fundamentalists are supporting the United Church of Christ's right to have the ad played. They feel that if the networks can slience the "liberal" Christians, the fundamentalists will be next.
It's about the almighty dollar people. If I sell the majority of my goods to purple people, am I going to put something out there that OFFENDS the purple people? Why? So I can lose money?

Oh - because it's the RIGHT thing to do?

Well how about you start your OWN station (cough cough Air America) and see if you can get the viewers you seem to believe are out there.

2c
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Old 12-03-04, 09:10 AM
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Originally posted by mosquitobite
Um how about Capitalism at it's best. The same as the Dixie Chicks learned
It's about the almighty dollar people. If I sell the majority of my goods to purple people, am I going to put something out there that OFFENDS the purple people? Why? So I can lose money?

Oh - because it's the RIGHT thing to do?
Sorry, but something smells fishy about this. How is airing a paid commercial more controversial than a weekly show like "Will and Grace"? Or any show that people might take issue with?

Just exactly who are these "potential viewers" that they might be alienating? It sounds like a deliberate attempt to stir up some anti-Christian sentiment.
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Old 12-06-04, 02:46 AM
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Originally Posted by mosquitobite
It's about the almighty dollar people. If I sell the majority of my goods to purple people, am I going to put something out there that OFFENDS the purple people? Why? So I can lose money?

Oh - because it's the RIGHT thing to do?

Well how about you start your OWN station (cough cough Air America) and see if you can get the viewers you seem to believe are out there.
Anyone who is offended by that message needs to lighten the fuck up.
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