Comcast Censoring Political Ads Critical of Its Actions

Glenn Greenwald is reporting that Comcast is refusing to run an ad critical of Representative Chris Carney, an ad which features Comcast itself as a major donor to and beneficiary of Carney's policy choices.  The network told him that they would "face potential liability for any defamation contained in the spot."

Comcast in this case concocted a factual inaccuracy and is refusing to run the ad.  While there's no excuse for this blatant conflict of interest, the company created an artifice of legal barriers that most stations simply do not.  Censoring advertisements from network and cable TV is a common practice in our political discourse, one that often goes unremarked.  Here are some recent examples:

  • In 2004, CBS refused to run an anti-Bush ad on the Super Bowl, citing its policy of refusing to run ads on "controversial issues of public importance".  At the same time, the network ran an ad for the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, a group known for laughably inaccurate portrayals of a controversial subject.  In all likelihood, this ad space was donated by CBS to the Partnership for a Drug Free America as part of a public service announcement program, for which the company receives tax advantages.

  • In 2004, the Minneopolis Star Tribune refused to run an ad for the pride celebration that showed two men kissing, calling it 'inflammatory'.

  • In 2005, Rolling Stone refused to run an ad for a new translation of the bible.  The Onion, Modern Bride,, and AOL all ran the ad.

  • In 2007, Fox News refused to run an ad featuring Danny Glover titled 'Rescue the Constitution.'  Here's the ad.

  • CBS and NBC refused to run ad an for the United Church of Christ obliquely welcoming gay and lesbian members, calling it 'controversial'.

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