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Saturday, December 04, 2004

CBS and NBC Don't Want Gay People to Go to Church

And you thought television networks would air virtually any commercial if they could sell the air time. Not so! While almost anyone would understand censoring an ad that might be too violent or sexual, what about one from a group of churches that tastefully announces their doors are open to everyone? "Too controversial," say NBC and CBS. Interesting, isn't it, how these networks trip over themselves to produce programming targeted at and featuring gay people ‹ this is appropriate, they feel ‹ but still feel the need to police their paid advertising?

It makes me feel especially glad I leave the room when the commercials are on, anyway ‹ and generally prefer the shows on cable. The last round of Emmy Awards, where cable programming won most of the major awards, started to suggest network TV is on the brink of extinction, anyway. These network executives aren't going to be helping their own causes by making arbitrary decisions that don't take into account the public good.

Apparently, over at ABC -- home of desperate housewives who seduce NFL football players -- anything goes. In this case, I'm happy with that.

Columnist Scott Sherman does a good job of explaining the background of this story and pointing out NBC's and CBS's hypocrisy in more depth:

Playing the God Game

Friday, December 03, 2004 -- ...This week I had finished my column, and its topic was the hypocrisy and the hysterics of the mainstream media since the election. I was just pushing the send button to my editors when a press release clicked into my mailbox. I¹d like to share a little of what has happened in the past few days regarding one church that was going to invite gays and lesbians to come into its congregations and how NBC and CBS decided that its ad was just too controversial.

The United Church of Christ is generally known as the Congregational Churches. Many of Norman Rockwell¹s white steeple church scenes are Congregational Churches in New England, though the churches of that time and today are vastly different in beliefs. UCC has always been on the forefront of social reform, including the first woman pastor in America and the first African-American minister in an all-white church. UCC instituted the Open and Affirming (O&A) tenant of its denomination. It allows individual churches to openly accept GLBT members in their congregations. This program has been enormously successful, and I¹ve seen these O&A churches thrive.

UCC decided to launch another program called ³God is Still Speaking.² This program was to invite everyone to church. When I say everyone, I mean everyone. It was going to be the first program to nationally advertise an acceptance of GLBT members. More than $4 million had been raised to fund national advertising on television with two different 30-second commercials to air both on the alphabet and cable networks.

You can check out the ads at UCC's website. My favorite is the commercial in which two bouncers in front of a church admit people only dressed in Laura Ashley and suits. People of color, handicapped, and two men holding hands are turned away from the velvet rope by the bouncers. A nationally-known advertising agency developed these television ads and print version counterparts....

Presented to the networks to launch on Nov. 30, two networks decided not to air the commercials, deeming them too ³controversial.² I¹m finding it ironic almost to the point of hypocrisy on the part of NBC not to run these ads. Certainly the network of ³Will & Grace² and ³Saturday Night Live² is not one to shy away from controversy. I fondly remember when Matthew Broderick stood on stage and said penis more than 50 times in five minutes during a sketch on SNL. Hell, the Church Lady was an amalgam of every old lady in church. What¹s the beef with NBC?

The second station refusing the commercials is CBS. Now, I don¹t want too sound too bitchy, but it seems the only controversy that CBS likes to court is in the fact that its main anchor uses made-up documents for news stories. It would seem the network that has made millions off of God and church (³Touched by an Angel² and ³Joan of Arcadia²) would be a little more religious-friendly. If not because of the religion aspect, one would have to conclude that its problem would be the gays in the commercial.

Read the entire column here: http://www.outinchicago.com/arts/conservativelyspeaking.asp

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