Fairness in advertising

CBS is scheduled to run to run a pro fundamentalist Christian, anti-abortion advertisement this Sunday during a professional football game broadcast,  The issue here is not that CBS is running this ad, but they have refused for years to run issue-oriented ads.  See: http://www.bustersports.com/blog/buster-blog/2010/01/18/tim-tebows-focus-for-the-family-super-bowl-commercial/

We might hope that this ad fails as did Tebow’s feeble football efforts in last weeks Senior Bowl.   It has also been observed that since abortions were not legal in the Philippines at that time, the premise of the ad may be a lie:

” In 2004, PETA wanted to run a commercial during the Super Bowl that would have urged people not to buy furs. MoveOn.org wanted to run a Super Bowl commercial pointing out that Bush had increased the deficit. And the United Church of Christ wanted to air an ad showing a bouncer refusing to let a gay couple enter a Church. The tagline was, “Jesus Didn’t Turn People away. Neither do we.” The Super Bowl rejected those ads because, they said, they will not run commercials that “touch on and/or take a position on one side of a current controversial issue of public importance.”

This year, a gay dating site wanted to run an ad during the Super Bowl. It was rejected. And then the far-right group Focus On The Family told the Super Bowl they’d like to run a 30-second anti-abortion ad featuring University of Florida’s star quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother. Oh, sure, said the Super Bowl, as long as you pay the $3 million price tag. To which many progressives in the U.S. are replying, “WTF?”

The ad proposes to tell the story of Tebow’s mom who, in 1987, was pregnant with Tim while she worked as a missionary in the Philippines. She contracted amoebic dysentery and, according to her, doctors told her she should have an abortion. Instead, she went ahead with her pregnancy and gave birth to the future Heisman Trophy winner who is now so grateful to Jesus, he wears Bible verses on his face during football games. He apparently also believes his mom’s experience gives him the right to tell women what they should do with their bodies — their wombs, to be precise.

Now, questions have arisen questioning whether Tebow and Mom’s story is even true. As was pointed out by numerous lawyers during the past couple of weeks, the Tebows’ Tale of Tim’s Miracle Birth leaves out an important detail that makes the story doubtful. You see, abortion has been illegal under any circumstances in the Philippines since the 1930s. Doctors who perform abortions there face six years in prison, and their patients are looking at two to six years. It’s therefore highly doubtful that a doctor would have suggested an abortion to begin with, and even if one had, who’s to know whether Mrs. Tebow took the jail sentence into consideration when making her, ahem, choice.

Needless to say, the Tebows’ ad has angered lots of people, especially women’s rights groups. The Washington Post ran an op-ed opposing the ad, and Dave Zirin, who writes for Sports Illustrated about sports and politics, said of the Super Bowl’s decision, “The hypocrisy boggles the mind.”

see:http://blogs.creativeloafing.com/theclog/2010/02/03/tebows-super-bowl-ad-story-pretty-unlikely/  (John Grooms)

From The Center for Inquiry:

CBS has decided to run an anti-choice ad from Focus on the Family during the Super Bowl. This ad, which features college football star Tim Tebow and his mother, will use Tebow’s personal story to advocate an anti-choice stance. The Center for Inquiry supports Freedom of Speech. At the same time, however, CFI also unwaveringly supports a woman’s right to choose. We are also deeply troubled by an apparent ideological bias in CBS’s choice of which commercials to air during the Super Bowl. Therefore, we cannot simply let an ad that advances an overtly Christian religious position at the expense of women’s rights air to over a hundred million people without a response.

We full-heartedly back Focus on the Family’s freedom to advocate the views expressed in its ad and CBS’s right air it. We must point out, however, that CBS has recently rejected advocacy ads from organizations such as PETA, MoveOn.org, and the United Church of Christ because they were deemed “too political.” We do not understand how the Focus on the Family ad avoids this label. The ad is at least as divisive and politically charged as the ads that CBS has refused to air in the past. The content of this ad asserts that Christian religious beliefs should overrule the Constitutional rights and reproductive freedom of half the American population.

Because CBS has shown an ideological bias in rejecting progressive advocacy advertisements, we must oppose CBS’s arbitrary decision to air Focus on the Family?s commercial. We have written a letter to CBS’s executives and advertisement directors asking them not to air this ad on the grounds discussed above. The text of that letter is as follows:

“Dear CBS Executive,

The Center for Inquiry wishes to convey to you our concern over CBS’s decision to air an anti-choice advertisement sponsored by Focus on the Family during Super Bowl XLIV. The Center for Inquiry is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering a secular society based on the principles of science, reason, and humanist values. While we fully support and defend CBS’s free speech right to air any ad it chooses to, we must oppose the decision to air the Focus on the Family ad on the grounds that CBS has refused to air ads by other organizations–including PETA, MoveOn.org, and the United Church of Christ–that were deemed “too political.” CBS has shown a troubling ideological bias by choosing to air a divisive political ad by Focus on the Family while also refusing to air ads by other organizations, many of which are politically progressive.

The Focus on the Family ad is at least as divisive and politically charged as ads that CBS has refused to air in the past. The content of this ad endangers women’s health and subjugates their rights under Roe v. Wade by asserting that Christian religious beliefs should overrule the freedoms and well-being concerns of half the American population. While we recognize that the decision to have an abortion is never an easy one, the Center for Inquiry holds as its position that the decision of whether or not to have an abortion should be made between a woman, her family, and her doctor. This position is shared by approximately 70% of the American population, the Supreme Court, and the one-in-five American women who will need an abortion at some point in their life.

The Super Bowl is an entertainment event that brings people together regardless of background, faith, ideology or political affiliation. In the past, CBS has shown great discretion in rejecting overtly political or controversial ads for airing during nationally televised events. It has prohibited advocacy from such groups as PETA, MoveOn.org, The United Church of Christ, and other groups that carry an implicit endorsement for one side in a public debate. Additionally, NBC made the decision last year to not air anti-choice messages during the Super Bowl on the grounds that they were overtly political. By offering one of the most prestigious advertising spots to Focus on the Family this year, CBS is breaking with a longstanding tradition of keeping politics and religion out of national sporting events.

We sincerely hope that you will reconsider your decision to air this divisive, misleading, and overtly political and religious ad during Super Bowl XLIV.

Thank you for your consideration.”

Given the importance of this issue, we ask that you take the time to write your own letter as well, if you choose to. Feel free to use any language from our letter in yours. Listed below are the names and public email addresses of CBS’s Sports Communication Directors.

Leslie Anne Wade, Sr. VP Sports Communication: lwade@cbs.com
Jerry Caraccioli, Communications Director, CBS Sports: gwcaraccioli@cbs.com
Robin Brendle, Communications Director, CBS Sports: rlbrendle@CBS.com
Jennifer Sabatelle, Communications Director, CBS Sports: jsabatelle@CBS.com

Thank you for your continued support.

Sincerely,

Ronald A. Lindsay
President and CEO

Toni Van Pelt

Vice President and Director of Public Policy

(Emphasis mine)

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