UCC petitions FCC over network refusal to air ads


On December 9, the United Church of Christ (UCC) responded to the refusal of CBS, NBC, and UPN to air a UCC ad promoting the church's inclusion of gays, racial minorities and people with disabilities by making its case to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). According to a UCC press release, the church is filing two petitions with the FCC "asking that two network owned-and-operated television stations in Miami be denied license renewals for failing to provide viewers 'suitable access' to a full array of 'social, political, esthetic, moral and other ideas and experiences.'"

From the December 9 UCC press release:

WFOR-TV (a CBS station) and WJVT-TV (an NBC station) -- whose operating licenses are currently up for FCC review -- are being challenged because "there is substantial and material question" as to whether the stations' parent companies, Viacom, Inc., and the General Electric Company, have operated the stations in the public interest, the petitions state.


Gloria Tristani, OC Inc.'s [the media advocacy arm of the UCC] managing director and a former FCC commissioner (1997-2001), said, "NBC and CBS and their stations must be accountable to the communities they are licensed to serve. How can it be in the public interest for television stations to exclude a church's message of inclusion?" The FCC filing was done on behalf of the United Church of Christ by lawyers from Media Access Project and the Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown University.

Media Matters for America noted the networks' rejection of the UCC ad on December 1. In particular, Media Matters contrasted CBS' history of airing ads that support Bush administration policy with its purported justification for rejecting the UCC ad, in part because "the Executive Branch has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman." Noting that there is no discernible inconsistency between a church's message of inclusion and the administration's support of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, Media Matters asked: Even assuming such an inconsistency does exist, how does CBS justify rejecting an ad that purportedly conflicts with the Bush administration's views, given CBS' apparent willingness to air advocacy ads that support administration policies?

On December 3, CBS contacted Media Matters with a written statement to make the case that the network's policy on advocacy advertisements is consistently applied, but it failed to explain why the network ran advocacy ads that support Bush administration positions while rejecting those the network deemed contrary to administration policies.

The UCC's Office of Communications has established a website that encourages visitors "to send an 'informal objection' to the FCC to support UCC's petition challenging pending license renewals of CBS and NBC-owned TV stations in Florida."

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, LGBTQ
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