Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

2731CBS, NBC Refuse to Air church's Television Advertisement

Expand Messages
  • umcornet
    Dec 1, 2004
      The ad states that -- like Jesus -- the United Church of Christ (UCC)
      seeks to welcome all people.

      CBS, NBC Refuse to Air church's Television Advertisement
      United Church of Christ ad highlighting Jesus' extravagant welcome
      called 'too controversial'
      For immediate release Nov. 30, 2004

      CLEVELAND -- The CBS and NBC television networks are refusing to run a
      30-second television ad from the United Church of Christ because its
      all-inclusive welcome has been deemed "too controversial."

      The ad, part of the denomination's new, broad identity campaign set to
      begin airing nationwide on Dec. 1, states that -- like Jesus -- the
      United Church of Christ (UCC) seeks to welcome all people, regardless
      of ability, age, race, economic circumstance or sexual orientation.

      According to a written explanation from CBS, the United Church of
      Christ is being denied network access because its ad implies
      acceptance of gay and lesbian couples -- among other minority
      constituencies -- and is, therefore, too "controversial."

      "Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and
      other minority groups by other individuals and organizations," reads
      an explanation from CBS, "and the fact the Executive Branch has
      recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a
      union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for
      broadcast on the [CBS and UPN] networks."

      Similarly, a rejection by NBC declared the spot "too controversial."

      "It's ironic that after a political season awash in commercials based
      on fear and deception by both parties seen on all the major networks,
      an ad with a message of welcome and inclusion would be deemed too
      controversial," says the Rev. John H. Thomas, the UCC's general
      minister and president. "What's going on here?"

      Negotiations between network officials and the church's
      representatives broke down today (Nov. 30), the day before the ad
      campaign begins airing nationwide on a combination of broadcast and
      cable networks. The ad has been accepted and will air on a number of
      networks, including ABC Family, AMC, BET, Discovery, Fox, Hallmark,
      History, Nick@Nite, TBS, TNT, Travel and TV Land, among others.

      The debut 30-second commercial features two muscle-bound "bouncers"
      standing guard outside a symbolic, picturesque church and selecting
      which persons are permitted to attend Sunday services. Written text
      interrupts the scene, announcing, "Jesus didn't turn people away.
      Neither do we." A narrator then proclaims the United Church of
      Christ's commitment to Jesus' extravagant welcome: "No matter who you
      are, or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here." (The
      ad can be viewed online at < http://www.stillspeaking.com >.)

      In focus groups and test market research conducted before the
      campaign's national rollout, the UCC found that many people throughout
      the country feel alienated by churches. The television ad is geared
      toward those persons who, for whatever reason, have not felt welcomed
      or comfortable in a church.

      "We find it disturbing that the networks in question seem to have no
      problem exploiting gay persons through mindless comedies or
      titillating dramas, but when it comes to a church's loving welcome of
      committed gay couples, that's where they draw the line," says the Rev.
      Robert Chase, director of the UCC's communication ministry.

      CBS and NBC's refusal to air the ad "recalls the censorship of the
      1950s and 1960s, when television station WLBT in Jackson, Miss.,
      refused to show people of color on TV," says Ron Buford, coordinator
      for the United Church of Christ identity campaign. Buford, of
      African-American heritage, says, "In the 1960s, the issue was the
      mixing of the races. Today, the issue appears to be sexual
      orientation. In both cases, it's about exclusion."

      In 1959, the Rev. Everett C. Parker organized United Church of Christ
      members to monitor the racist practices of WLBT. Like many southern
      television stations at the time, WLBT had imposed a news blackout on
      the growing civil rights movement, pulling the plug on then-attorney
      Thurgood Marshall. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. implored the UCC to
      get involved in the media civil rights issues. Parker, founding
      director of the Office of Communication of the United Church of
      Christ, organized churches and won in federal court a ruling that the
      airwaves are public, not private property. That decision ultimately
      led to an increase in the number of persons of color in television
      studios and newsrooms. The suit clearly established that television
      and radio stations, as keepers of the public airwaves, must broadcast
      in the public interest.

      "The consolidation of TV network ownership into the hands of a few
      executives today puts freedom of speech and freedom of religious
      expression in jeopardy," says former FCC Commissioner Gloria Tristani,
      currently managing director of the UCC's Office of Communication. "By
      refusing to air the United Church of Christ's paid commercial, CBS and
      NBC are stifling religious expression. They are denying the
      communities they serve a suitable access to differing ideas and

      Adds Andrew Schwartzman, president and CEO of the not-for-profit Media
      Access Project in Washington, D.C., "This is an abuse of the
      broadcasters' duty to inform their viewers on issues of importance to
      the community. After all, these stations don't mind carrying shocking,
      attention-getting programming, because they do that every night."

      The United Church of Christ's national offices -- located in Cleveland
      -- speak to, but not for, its nearly 6,000 congregations and 1.3
      million members. In the spirit of the denomination's rich tradition,
      UCC congregations remain autonomous, but also strongly in covenant
      with each other and with the denomination's regional and national

      United Church of Christ
      Barb Powell, press contact
      (216) 736-2175
      < powellb@... >
      < http://www.ucc.org >