Anti-War Message: Tough Time Being Heard in Media
Thu March 27, 2003 04:40 PM ET
By Steve James and Mark Weinraub

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Groups opposed to the U.S.-led campaign against Baghdad complain they have been blocked from airing anti-war advertisements on broadcast media increasingly dominated by giant corporations.

The online advocacy group said it had no problem placing ads in newspapers such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, but TV was different. CNN, Fox, the teen music network MTV, and even cable television's Comedy Central, turned down spots featuring celebrities like Susan Sarandon talking with "experts" about war issues.

News Corp.'s Fox network has a long-standing policy of not accepting so-called advocacy ads, a network spokeswoman said. AOL Time Warner's CNN does not take advocacy ads about regions in conflict, a spokesman said in an e-mail.

The anti-war group Not In Our Name said MTV refused to air its spots by acclaimed documentary maker Barbara Kopple, in which young Americans in New York's Times Square talk of their opposition to war.

The organization Peace Action said it had commercials set to air before and after President Bush's State of the Union address in January, but they were rejected by Comcast Corp., the No. 1 U.S. cable television operator.

Comcast eventually aired the commercial, but the review process to determine if it met the company's guidelines took time, the company told Reuters in an e-mail.

Peace Action was developing more commercials, including some for radio, but was not certain they would ever air.


The anti-war message is also difficult to hear on radio, where more and more stations are owned by huge corporations like Clear Channel Communications.

"The mainstream media, especially TV, are not giving anything like equal coverage to rational arguments against attacking Iraq," a spokesman said.

He said the group's ads had been rejected because stations said they preferred to address the issue through the news departments or did not want to air graphic images.

Daniel Pace, a spokesman for Not In Our Name, said the anti-war group had a 30-second spot turned down by MTV, which cited its policy of not allowing partisan advertising. He noted that the network ran recruitment ads for the U.S. military.

Carol Robinson, a spokeswoman for MTV, part of Viacom Inc.'s entertainment empire, said: "We don't accept advocacy advertising. (But) We run lots of programming that includes anti-war voices."

Recruitment ads for the military did not fall under the definition of advocacy advertising, she said.

The New York Times columnist Paul Krugman suggested this week that Clear Channel, which some controls 1,200 U.S. radio stations, is helping organize "grass-roots" demonstrations in favor of the war and against anti-war voices.

A Clear Channel station, Krugman said, organized a protest at which a tractor smashed CDs, tapes and videos of the Dixie Chicks, after the Grammy-winning country group told an audience in London it was embarrassed Bush was from Texas.

Clear Channel spokeswoman Lisa Dollinger called Krugman's column "pure fiction." She did not immediately return calls seeking Clear Channel's guidelines on accepting advertising.

One ad that aired was by advocacy group MoveOn, which has put together an online petition opposing the war. Its TV spot was similar to the infamous 1964 political commercial Lyndon Johnson used in his campaign against Barry Goldwater -- showing a girl picking petals off of a flower -- played during the National Football League's Super Bowl championship.

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