OP-EDS

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February 3, 2004

CBS made the right-winged decision, not the right decision

It's the day after the Super Bowl. The Patriots won with a 41-yard field goal with four seconds remaining. The only thing wrong with the game was that it should have been Peyton Manning and the Colts celebrating. There were a few really good commercials, and even more disappointing and utterly pointless ones. Thankfully, watching the Super Bowl last night has not encouraged me in any way to drink more Pepsi, Bud Light, or get a case of erectile dysfunction and start taking Levitra or Cialis. There was also that half-time show with Justin, Janet, some other overrated pop artists, and an R-rated incident soon to be investigated by the FCC. That is, with due respect, trivial, like Justin Timberlake's music.

But a commercial you didn't see last night, and quite frankly should have, was a little commercial called "Child's Pay." It was shown on CNN, instead of CBS, during halftime. The commercial was the winner of the "Bush in 30 Seconds" contest, sponsored by the liberal political engine MoveOn.org, to find the best commercial criticizing President Bush's policies.

"Child's Play" is a moving and provocative commercial, which asks about the national debt that's grown during Bush's administration. The commercial is on MoveOn.org's website and should be playing soon on CNN and other stations. The commercial was rejected by CBS because the news organization refused to sell the ad time on the basis that it does not accept advocacy advertising. This after it showed dozens of vapid corporate commercials selling alcohol, a few anti-smoking ads from tobacco companies, and a few from the White House itself. CBS probably has the right to choose what ads they will and will not run; that I agree with since they are a private company. But then I have the right to file a complaint with CBS over not showing the ad, as do 340,000 other people who claim the network is demonstrating right-wing bias in its decision. CBS said it does not run advocacy commercials. What CBS should say is it doesn't run liberal groups' ads while still running advocacy ads from the White House via the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

As advocacy ads go, "Child's Play" is not in any way controversial, at least in my opinion. It's actually a pretty effective commercial. What it does show is the truth. The ad warns that the high deficit spending and tax cuts the Bush administration is employing could have repercussion for future generations. That's my generation, and my children's generation, that might have to be burdened with this large and cumbersome trillion-dollar shortfall. Come to think about it, the war on drugs is still controversial, as politicians continue to question its effectiveness and, more often, its failures. A 2002 Super Bowl commercial from the same Office of National Drug Control Policy equated terrorism to drug use. The connections can be seen, but still the ad stirred debate, and yes, controversy.

The corporate commercials themselves that play during the Super Bowl are often crass, lewd, and especially over-hyped and over-sexed. A Bud Light commercial where Cedric the Entertainer gets a bikini wax? A Sierra Mist ad of a guy in a kilt standing over a sidewalk vent? And all those erectile dysfunction commercials using the word "erection" to an audience of 30 million people, many of whom are kids? These are less controversial than the MoveOn.org's ad?

Did CBS make the right decision, or the right-winged decision? Still, this is the same network that did not air The Reagans because conservatives thought it depicted the 40th president/right-wing demigod in a disturbing light. Controversial seems to be defined in CBS lexicon as controversial for conservatives.

Of course, CBS may be pragmatic in their approach. The phrase "don't bite the hand that feeds you" may apply to CBS, particularly since it was the White House and a Republican-controlled Senate that recently approved loosening of an ownership cap that sets limits on the total national TV audience any one network can reach. CBS and Fox were able to keep many stations they would have had to sell under the original ownership cap. Some other interesting facts include that CBS and Fox lobbied heavily for the FCC rule change, and that 98% of the $14,000 in soft money contributions CBS made during the 2000 election cycle went to the Republican Party.

The facts aren't sticking to CBS president Les Moonves' story that this was in no way a politically motivated move. But no matter, it seems MoveOn.org got more publicity not having the commercial shown than it would have had CBS actually aired it. The commercial still exists; it's played on CNN and its affiliates, and MoveOn.org still has its $2.3 million dollars that it didn't have to piss away on Super Bowl airtime. CBS just won't have this student watching its hypocritical, truth-killing, pro-right wing broadcast. Come to think about it, I don't know of anyone under the age of 30 who watches CBS. CSI is all-hype, Survivor is old, and what the hell is this Joan of Arcadia that it keeps on advertising?