During this year's Super Bowl, you'll see ads sponsored by beer companies, tobacco companies, and the Bush White House. But you won't see the winning ad in MoveOn.org Voter Fund's Bush in 30 Seconds ad contest. CBS refuses to air it.
Meanwhile, the White House is on the verge of signing into law a deal which Senator John McCain (R-AZ) says is custom-tailored for CBS and Fox, allowing the two networks to grow much bigger. CBS lobbied hard for this rule change; MoveOn.org members across the country lobbied against it; and now our ad has been rejected while the White House ad will be played. It looks an awful lot like CBS is playing politics with the right to free speech.
Over the last year, you've been a part of our incredible campaign against media consolidation. CBS's censorship demonstrates why this issue is so important: a few big media companies can effectively stop political speech. If we can successfully highlight CBS's unfairness in the media, we'll be able to push forward our FCC campaign as well.
To watch the ad that CBS won't air and sign our petition to CBS, go to:
(If you want to skip the ad and just sign the petition, click here.)
We'll deliver the petition by email directly to CBS headquarters.
You also may want to let your local CBS affiliate know you're unhappy about this decision. We've attached a list of the CBS affiliates in your state at the bottom of this email. Remember, a polite, friendly call will be most effective -- just explain to them why you believe CBS' decision hurts our democracy.
Of course, this is bigger than just the MoveOn.org Voter Fund. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) submitted an ad that was also rejected. But this isn't even a progressive-vs.-conservative issue. The airwaves are publicly owned, so we have a fundamental right to hear viewpoints from across the ideological spectrum. That's why we need to let CBS know that this practice of arbitrarily turning down ads that may be "controversial" -- especially if they're controversial simply because they take on the President -- just isn't right.
CBS will claim that the ad is too controversial to air. But the message of the ad is a simple statement of fact, supported by the President's own figures. Compared with 2002's White House ad which claimed that drug users are supporting terrorism, it hardly even registers.
CBS will also claim that this decision isn't an indication of political bias. But given the facts, that's hard to believe. CBS overwhelmingly favored Republicans in its political giving, and the company spent millions courting the White House to stop FCC reform. According to a well-respected study, CBS News was second only to Fox in failing to correct common misconceptions about the Iraq war which benefited the Bush Administration -- for example, the idea that Saddam Hussein was involved with 9/11.
This is not a partisan issue. It's critical that our media institutions be fair and open to all speakers. CBS is setting a dangerous precedent, and unless we speak up, the pattern may continue. Please call on CBS to air ads which address issues of public importance today.
--Adam, Carrie, Eli, James, Joan, Laura, Noah, Peter, Wes, and Zack
The MoveOn.org Team
January 23rd, 2003