04 February 2010

A Threat to Reproductive and Media Justice: The Super Bowl Saga Continues

Despite an impressive no-holds-barred campaign led by the Women's Media Center (WMC) and other national organizations, CBS continues to hold on for dear life to the $2.5 million ad revenue promised by the Focus on the Family anti-choice Super Bowl ad. There's been a significant amount of coverage of this dispute in mainstream media, but what seems to be missing is mention of the fact that while yes, this is about reproductive rights and justice, it's about media justice, too.

As we noted before, WMC, Planned Parenthood and other advocates are taking CBS executives to task for overruling a long-held policy "prohibiting advocacy ads, even ones that carry an 'implicit' endorsement for a side in a public debate" in favor of Focus on the Family's harmful, divisive anti-choice message. In 2004, when its anti-advocacy policy was still in place, CBS turned town an ad by the United Church of Christ intended to demonstrate that all people -- including LGBTQ people -- should be welcome in church because it ostensibly promoted gay marriage. Just this year, however, coinciding with their acceptance of the Focus on the Family ad, CBS rejected an ad for a gay dating site and another featuring a "flamboyant" ex-football player because, CBS claimed, it "had the potential to offend a significant number of people." And an anti-choice ad doesn't?

Hypocrisy, bias and dollar signs are written all over this. CBS responded to criticism about the Focus on the Family ad by inviting ads expressing an alternate point of view, seemingly trying to express its neutrality in the abortion debate (or transparently garner more ad revenue -- there's no doubt CBS is struggling). But, as Jehmu Greene, President of WMC, writes, its decision to air the anti-choice ad belies such neutrality, aligns CBS -- and the NFL -- with an incendiary organization, and suggests more dangerous liaisons between conservative groups and corporate media in the future:
CBS' decision to debut its new policy of accepting advocacy ads during the Super Bowl by climbing in bed with a right-wing, anti-woman, homophobic organization -- and the NFL's explicit endorsement -- indicates a clear bias. That this unprecedented break from a longstanding tradition of relative political impartiality comes on the heels of a Supreme Court decision bestowing person-hood on corporations is a real threat to fair representation in the media.
As major networks continue to face declining ad revenue and weakening influence in the media market, who knows what strange -- or likely -- bedfellows they'll seek? Perhaps, Jodi Jacobson of RH Reality Check writes, with both Focus on the Family and CBS in need of a financial boost, theirs is "a marriage made in conservative heaven." A frightening thought, and a rallying cry for reproductive justice, social justice -- and media justice, now.

Photo: Not Under the Bus

1 comment:

  1. It's no surprise that when corporate media is involved it's never an equal "playing field." How many progressive organizations have (and would want to) spend 3 million for an ad? Yet another reminder that media justice advocacy and independent media are critical in lifting up the voices of those most marginalized from mainstream discourse.