Early Column : CBS Silliness and the Marketplace of Ideas

CBS, in its infinite silliness, apparently won’t let some folks run some ads during the SuperBowl. Now, if the airwaves they’ve used for the last 60 years weren’t public, I’d have no problem with it, nor would I if they were a cable-only network.
Unfortnately for CBS, they have a license to use public airwaves, owned by the people. They don’t own the airwaves themselves. The idea is they license to use them, provided they at least have some semblance of public service once in a while (i.e. emergency alerts, etc.).
Thus when they refuse one kind of people’s ads and not another’s, it’s not only bad for freedom – it’s bad business. In an era when broadcast television networks are losing market share and have a fraction of the audience they had 20 years ago, why would they be refusing the money of people who, for whatever reason, want to buy time on their network?
To suggest that the ad from Moveon.org is “too controversial” is laughable. What’s not laughable is the Big Three’s consistent refusal to allowing any television issue advertising on budget issues that they deem “upsetting.” This, from people who put on enough bug, cow-testicle, and animal-gut eating on reality tv to upset even the hardiest of souls.
Let’s take a ride in the Wayback Machine and take another look – same circumstances, same issue, different group putting on the ads:
In 1986, the W.R. Grace Company, in no way shape or form remotely “leftist,” hired Ridley Scott to produce a very simliar ad in terms of subject, but one far more “edgy” than MoveOn’s compartively quiet ad.
Set in 2017, it featured children prosecuting people of the 1980s in “The Deficit Trials”, condemning them for their irresponsibilty. This ad ran on independent television in the 1980s, but the Big Three refused. “Too controversial,” they said.
It created a ruckus in the 1980s, and there were charges of “liberal media cabal” bandied about. Obviously, even the Moveon.org people forgot about this ad, which is surprising. Maybe I’m one of the few people that even remember it at all – still a testament to its memorability.
You think MoveOn.org might at least try enlist the support of anti-deficit conservatives on this issue – or at least make mention of W.R. Grace’s experiences in the late 80s. Read about it here at Time Magazine for some more information, and a synopsis of the ad itself.
Funny how free-speech people on some sides are silent this time on this issue that weren’t last time. I’m not hearing the “liberal media cabal” charges either. I can’t imagine why.
Personally I think everyone who has the money should be able to buy ads at the rate the networks over-charge – cranks of all sides, products of all kinds, and let people tune ’em out with TiVO and VCRs and the ever-trusty mute button on the remote.
That’s the neat thing about freedom and a truly free market of ideas – if you don’t like it , you can always turn it off, or turn on something you like. The republic is not scarred if a few goofy ads get on once in a great while.
I guess free markets are a new concept over at the corporate-owned networks. Perhaps they’re concerned that in a truly free market, they might not stack up? Perish the thought.

© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at www.schadelmann.com

Leave a Reply