Back in 2004, CBS rejected an ad from the United Church of Christ, declaring that “it was against our policy of accepting advocacy advertising,” which made CBS’s decision to run Focus on the Family’s anti-choice ad during the Super Bowl such a surprise.
But now we find out that it really shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise at all, because the network had been working closely with Focus on the Family for months to help them craft that ad:
The major broadcast networks have avoided political advocacy ads for years, so CBS’s decision to air the Tebow ad caught abortion rights advocates off guard. But Focus on the Family, the Colorado Springs-based conservative Christian group founded by Dr. James Dobson, says that it has actually been working closely with CBS executives for months on the ad’s script.
“There were discussions about the specific wording of the spot,” said Gary Schneeberger, spokesperson for Focus on the Family. “And we came to a compromise. To an agreement.” Schneeberger declined to comment on CBS’s input on the ad’s message.
CBS has said that in the last year, in an acknowledgement of “industry norms,” it loosened previous restrictions on advocacy advertisements, accepting ads that pushed for health reform and environmental activism.
But pro-choice advocates complain the network didn’t publicize the policy change and hasn’t applied it consistently, citing a rejected Super Bowl ad from gay dating Web site ManCrunch.com. According to Schneeberger, Focus on the Family was not aware of an explicit policy change inside the network, either. “It was only last week that they indicated that they changed any policy,” he said.
“We’ve worked with [CBS] almost since the beginning,” Schneeberger added. “Our senior vice presidents talked to CBS executives throughout the process. It was a very cordial, very professional, fruitful relationship.”