MoveOn Accuses CBS of Bias

NEW YORK Liberal political advocacy group MoveOn.org has charged CBS Television and parent Viacom with political favoritism after the network agreed to run a White House anti-drug ad during the Super Bowl but has rejected the group’s 30-second spot.

“It seems to us that CBS simply defers to those it fears or from whom it wants favors—in this case, the Bush White House,” said Eli Pariser, MoveOn.org’s campaign director, in a statement. “This is the same CBS that recently backed down when the Republican National Committee made a stink about its miniseries on former President Reagan and his family.”

CBS denied the MoveOn.org Voter Fund a slot in the Super Bowl earlier this month when it would not allow the winning spot from it’s recent “Bush in 30 Seconds” TV ad contest to air during the game. The spot, “Child’s Play,” focused on the federal deficit it claims the Bush administration has created [Adweek Online Jan. 16]. An ad from People for Ethical Treatment of Animals also was rejected by CBS.

CBS said it has a policy not to run advocacy ads, and considers MoveOn.org’s charge a tactic to gain free publicity. “Our policy is long-standing and clear,” said a CBS representative. “We do not run contentious messages that are clearly devisive. I’d like to know who’s for drug abuse? There are advocacy groups that are coming up with fairly new and innovative ways to do the same thing [and] get themselves free publicity.”

Tom Riley, a White House Office of National Drug Control Policy representative, called MoveOn.org’s charge of political favoritism “absurd.”

“CBS has a stated and long-standing policy about accepting ads on contentious issues,” Riley said. “As far as our anti-drug ads are concerned, who, exactly, would the ‘other side’ be? People who want teens to do drugs? Or people who don’t want parents to talk to their teens about drugs. Who is that constituency? Or more specifically, who is willing to be identified in public as that constituency?”

Riley continued, “It is understandable, if pathetic, that pro-drug organizations would oppose these messages. In the long run, their goals depend on more people using drugs. But it is particularly sad to see other organizations attempt to block these public health messages merely to further their own political agenda.”