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Thursday, April 6, 2006

Now cable networks eject the UCC ad, too.

Cable network owners Viacom and NBC Universal have booted the United Church of Christ's "ejector" ad from their cable networks. (See the ad.) Why this can't get on TV when the outrageously offensive promos for Quentin Tarantino's torture flick can? The UCC is especially indignant that these same networks accept ads from Focus on the Family, which is much more an advocacy organization than the UCC is. The denomination's TV ads have been rejected by the broadcast networks in the past (which are owned by the same corporations, naturally) for being "advocacy" ads — and now the quick glimpse of a gay couple getting ejected from a church has upset the owners of such conflict-averse stations as MTV, VH1, Bravo, and Comedy Central. (Over to you, Jon Stewart!) Also turning the ad down: Nick@Night, TV Land, Logo, USA Network, Telemundo, Discovery, and Univison.

Other cable networks are showing the ad, however, including ABC/Disney, A&E, AMC, BET, CNN, CNN Headline, Hallmark, History, TBS, TNT, E!, Lifetime, Si-TV, and Azteca America. Folks, if Hallmark and ABC/Disney didn't throw the ad out, it can't really be that offensive.

It may be that television advertising isn't an effective outreach tool for churches. I know people who take that position. However, any minority religious group is going to be seen as "controversial" when it even mildly offers a bit of comparison and contrast in its promotional materials. The Episcopal Church's TV ads in Utah four years ago did an amazing job of "raising awareness" about the church: During a visit to my parents, Mrs Philocrites (who is Episcopalian) and I got a earful about the ads from my Mormon relatives. Ironically, they thought it was inappropriate for churches to advertise on TV. ("A message from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Mormons." Remember those? Or the Book of Mormon ads on cable?)

But the ad that amazed Mrs P and me on that trip was the giant billboard above the parking lot next to the teeny, tiny, and entirely wonderful St Mary's Episcopal Church in Provo, Utah. It said: "Welcome to St Mary's Episcopal Church, part of the Anglican Communion, 70 million members worldwide." The billboard was almost as big as the sanctuary, but its point — in the downtown heart of Mormonia's academic capital — was clear.

People don't complain as much about billboards, though: My grandmother was more offended by the ad that asked, "Where do women stand in our church?," and then showed a woman priest celebrating the eucharist. "Right at the altar," the ad said. I said I thought people looking for a religious alternative would like to know that; the ad was answering an important question, not taking a jab at any particular patriarchy.

But back to the United Church of Christ: The networks are being unfair, no matter what you think of the wisdom of the denomination's gamble on TV ads. The church's Accessible Airwaves website can help you contact the networks and relevant regulatory agencies to complain.

("'Sorry, cable trouble'—Viacom, NBC-owned cable channels become next to reject UCC's ads," J. Bennett Guess, United Church News 4.5.06)

Copyright © 2006 by Philocrites | Posted 6 April 2006 at 7:49 AM

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