Anti-war groups allege ad block on airwaves

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 29.03.03

New York, March 28 (Reuters): Groups opposed to the US-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 advertisements 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 advertisements, a network spokeswoman said. AOL Time Warner’s CNN does not take advocacy advertisements 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 organisation, Peace Action, said it had commercials set to air before and after President George W. Bush’s State of the Union address in January, but they were rejected by Comcast Corp, the No. 1 US 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 if they would ever be aired.

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 advertisements 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 advertisements for the US 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 advertisements 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 the Clear Channel, which controls some 1,200 US radio stations, is helping organise “grassroots” demonstrations in favour of the war and against anti-war voices.

A Clear Channel station, Krugman said, organised 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 that it was embarrassed that Bush is from Texas.

Clear Channel spokeswoman Lisa Dollinger called Krugman’s column “pure fiction”. She did not immediately return calls seeking the channel’s guidelines on accepting advertising.