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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Welcoming churches unwelcome on CBS, NBC.

I'm angry now:

The CBS and NBC television networks are refusing to run a 30-second television ad from the United Church of Christ because its all-inclusive welcome has been deemed "too controversial."

The ad, part of the denomination's new, broad identity campaign set to begin airing nationwide on Dec. 1, states that — like Jesus — the United Church of Christ seeks to welcome all people, regardless of ability, age, race, economic circumstance or sexual orientation.

According to a written explanation from CBS, the United Church of Christ is being denied network access because its ad implies acceptance of gay and lesbian couples — among other minority constituencies — and is, therefore, too "controversial."

"Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations," reads an explanation from CBS, "and the fact the Executive Branch has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast on the [CBS and UPN] networks."

Apparently, NBC has rejected the spot for similar reasons.

I'm doubly mad. First, the ads — which I've written about before — are exemplary, direct statements of the UCC's theology. It's who they are trying to be. Isn't it amazing that one of the country's most venerable mainline denominations can't even buy the right to share its understanding of the Gospel? Second, it boggles the mind that the White House's grandstanding about a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage could be invoked by a TV network as a reason to exclude any advertisement that even indirectly hints that gay people are welcome to go to church. Think about that for a second. A bit of constitutional law that hasn't so much as made it out of the House of Representatives and is years away from even potentially becoming the law is driving the network's advertising decisions now.

If you're curious about the limits of acceptable public discourse these days, here's the phrase you can't utter on national television: "Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we." CBS and NBC, however, do.

Update 12.1.04: I forgot to thank Chuck Currie for raising the alarm. The secular liberal blogosphere has been alerted by Josh Marshall, and it just jumped onto the front page at Daily Kos.

Here's how to contact the networks, via Timoteo, who cribbed them from Focus on the Family:


Randy Falco
NBC Television Network
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10112
Phone: 212-664-5083 (Mr. Falco's office)
Phone: 212-664-4444 (general switchboard)
Fax: 212-664-3019

Robert C. Wright
Vice Chairman and Executive Officer
General Electric (he is also Chairman and CEO of NBC)
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10112
Phone: 212-664-4555 (Mr. Wright's office)
Fax: 212-664-7288
Web site: (this includes a "contact us" section for e-mailing GE)




CBS Television's main phone number is 212-975-4321. You may also find this information helpful:

Sumner M. Redstone
Chairman and CEO
Viacom, Inc.
1515 Broadway
New York, NY 10036

Mr. Leslie Moonves
Chairman and CEO
CBS Television
7800 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036


Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 30 November 2004 at 10:36 PM

Previous: What did Rowan Williams say?
Next: United Church of Christ protests rejection of its ad.



Jeff Wilson:

November 30, 2004 10:54 PM | Permalink for this comment

I'm angry too. If you provide some tips about where to send viewer complaints, I'll write letters and get every one of my family members to do so as well. And I'll threaten to quit watching CBS and NBC programming if they don't allow the ads to be shown within three months. Much as I like ER, the CBS Evening News, and other shows, I'll stick to it, too. As far as I'm concerned this policy is outright anti-American.


December 1, 2004 03:29 PM | Permalink for this comment

Updates from Josh Marshall: He gets ahold of the CBS policy that ruled the UCC ad out of bounds, examines its reasoning, and talks to a CBS spokesman about the policy.


December 1, 2004 08:21 PM | Permalink for this comment

Thank you for your comments. I want to COMMEND the UCC for being inclusive and loving towards ALL people. I think Jesus would be shocked at what sorts of hatred and Non-loving behaviors are being done "in his name".

Joe Stone:

December 1, 2004 10:54 PM | Permalink for this comment

This issue just made the front page of I'm pleased to see it make national news.


December 1, 2004 11:39 PM | Permalink for this comment

You can send letters at the UCC website.

While I am very angry about this, I also think this is 'good news'. And it is the kind of incident that troubles the souls of 'young Evangelicals'. Ok, not all of them.

Two interesting issues I've been researching about the Evangelicals. 1) There is a conservative concern about the bleeding edge. Commodification does have its price. (Learning from the Bleeding Edge Evangelicalism Christianity Today, (
February 2004 At the Crossroads Evangelicals have become major players in American culture, and that may be their biggest problem.
By Martin E. Marty.

(2) Twenty-first century young Evangelicals are culturally aware and are much more likely to put themselves in the place of the oppressed. This is an opportunity for dialogue and evangelizing the Evangelicals with our good news.



December 1, 2004 11:47 PM | Permalink for this comment

See also Frederick Clarkson.

William Brandes:

December 2, 2004 01:42 AM | Permalink for this comment

Don't get angry. This is God Speaking. As a marketer, I couldn't have developed a subversive marketing campaign as well as this is developing. I don't know if this was intentional by either the UCC or CBS/NBC, a thumb in the eye of the Bushies. But, whatever, ride the wave UCC. I guarantee, that after all of this press, we will never again be CONFUSED with the Church of Christ. God is indeed Still Speaking.


December 2, 2004 09:09 PM | Permalink for this comment

Sam Rosenfeld at The American Prospect agrees with William: Whether calculated or inadvertant, the news story the UCC has generated with its ad has paid off terrifically:

After months of attempted negotiations and pleading had failed, the UCC folks clearly made the decision to go public with the networks’ stances on the same day they unveiled their splashy new national ad campaign. Very, very savvy. An employee of the Church told me that the UCC website crashed yesterday due to a nine-fold increase in traffic -- they had to expand their bandwidth midday to stay online. It’s almost enough to make one suspect CBS and NBC of perpetrating a brilliant liberal elite conspiracy to lavish attention on this super-progressive church and its promo by instigating this whole controversy in the first place. But no, of course, the networks really are this sincerely craven and pathetic; decades of right-wing mau-mauing have left them mighty gun-shy.

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