Shutting out “controversial” religious ads

Wanted to share with you the ongoing problems folks at United Church of Christ (UCC) (a frequent client of my employer, Media Access Project), are having with getting an advertisement of their on the air. As some of you may recall, the United Church of Christ has found it difficult to buy air time for advertisements urging folks to come to church. Please note, that’s BUY airtime. UCC has not asked for a freebie public service announcement.

Apparently, the message that Jesus ministers to everyone regardless of whether they are mainstream or not is still too “controversial” for mainstream networks. Worse, and further proof of the power of consolidation to supress debate, the cable networks owned or affiliated with the broadcast networks have now joined in the black out of UCC’s controversial “God loves everyone” message. Even the Viacom gay and lesbian network has rejected the advertisement (apparently a church that actually welcomes members of their target audience is too controversial).

For anyone who laughs at the idea that a “free market” will willingly forgo revenues just to block potentially unpopular speech, I advise you to look again. You can read a god op ed on the matter here.

Below I reprint a letter from the Rev. Bob Chase, the head of UCC’s Office of Communication, describing the situation.

As an Orthodox Jew, I am not myself a member of UCC. But I know what it is to be non-mainstream. Anyone who cares about ensuring a free and robust exchange of ideas in this country should ask why UCC can’t find anyone to sell it air time. Is it UCC’s activism on media ownership issues? Their “controversial” decision to appeal to non-mainstream (e.g., gay) parishoners?

And what makes you think the next “controversial” message about your favorite cause will get through?

Stay tuned . . . .

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Hallmark Channel to Show Documentary on Low Power FM

I’m posting an announcement for a documentary about low power FM (LPFM). As regular readers probably know, I represent United Church of Christ, which made the documentary, at the FCC on LPFM issues.

LPFM: The People’s Choice“ to air on the Hallmark Channel on Sunday, January 8th at 7 am EST and 7 am PST.

There’s a new sound on the air and it’s emanating from a source deep in the hearts and minds of Americans across the country. ”LPFM: The People’s Choice“ chronicles the extraordinary story of a low power, low cost radio service that withstood the rigors of Capitol Hill and special interest attacks. Today, LPFM is sending out a loud and clear signal — Freedom of Speech has a new ally, and it’s LPFM. ”LPFM: The People’s Choice” is more than a documentary- it is a rallying cry to build community around locally owned media. The film chronicles how low power FM radio is bringing diverse people closer together and giving new life to disadvantaged communities, new strength to neighborhoods and new voices in the marketplace of ideas. This program is not a debate about the merits of LPFM vs. the radio industry. Rather, it is meant to educate the audience about the possibilities for finding a new voice with LPFM. The film was produced by the Office of Commmunication of the United Church of Christ. For more information, please visit us at, or call 202-263-2576.

We take on Chicago and Milwaukee Commercial TV

I had a little unintended hiatus for the last 8 weeks or so. Hopefully, I’ll be back to more regular posting.

To catch up on the news. Media Access Project, where I work, has filed challenges against the licenses of the commercial television stations in Chicago and Milwaukee. You can read the press release here. You can follow the links to the Chicago petition and the Milwaukee Petition. Or you can see my quick analysis about why you should care below.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory: CBS & NBC Out Conservative Fox

Viacom, the network that has vowed to fight the FCC’s indecency fine for the Jackson/Timberlake “Wardrobe Malfunction” all the way to the Supreme Court in the name of free speech, has rejected this advertisement by the United Church of Christ as “too controversial,” as has NBC. Fox, the “conservative network,” had no problems, nor did the ABC Family Channel. What gives? Disturbing implications discussed below.

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