By now, you’ve probably heard that there’s going to be a controversial ad aired during the Super Bowl. It’s an ad produced by the extreme right-wingers at Focus on the Family, and it features Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother, discouraging women from having abortions. What makes the ad particularly controversial is that it represents a stark departure from CBS and the Super Bowl’s previous policy of refusing all "issue advocacy" ads, notably, in recent years, several ads with politically progressive messages.
There are so many problems with this situation, it’s hard to know where to start. For one, CBS only claimed they’d changed their longstanding policy on "issue ads" last week, after they started taking heat for having approved the Focus on the Family ad – far too late for any progressive group to take advantage of this stunning reversal by a) producing a spot worthy of the Super Bowl and b) raising the nearly $3 million it costs to air one.
More than that, though, it’s still unclear how changed CBS’s policy really is. News broke late this week that the following sweet and goofy ad for gay dating site ManCrunch had been rejected:
CBS is claiming that the ad was submitted too late and they’ve run out of ad space, but that’s pretty unlikely given the current economic climate and the constant reports of sluggish ad sales that were plaguing the Super Bowl until the very moment this story broke. So what gives?
Well, let’s take a closer look at CBS’s statement on their policy change. A spokesman says that the network "will continue to consider responsibly produced ads from all groups. [emphasis mine]" But who decides what’s "responsibly produced"? And on what planet is two dudes kissing "irresponsible" but the propaganda of an anti-choice hate group "responsible"?
And what about that propaganda? The ad has yet to be viewed publicly, but we know it features Tebow’s mother recounting how she was encouraged by her doctors to have an abortion (she had taken some medication before she knew she was pregnant that was likely to have caused serious harm to her fetus), but decided not to, instead giving birth to Tim. So, this ad features a woman who was free to choose for herself what she wanted to do with her body, but concludes that you shouldn’t be. And it also features a woman who is celebrating going against her doctor’s advice because it happens to have worked out well for her, and encouraging you to do the same if it involves carrying a fetus to term, nevermind how statistically unlikely her happy ending was and how many women may suffer if they take her advice. That’s certainly not my definition of responsible.
Even if CBS were applying their new policy fairly, it sets a troubling precedent. In these rough economic times, do we really want to encourage a system which sells the most influence on an issue to the highest bidder? The Supreme Court may think so, but in my book, that’s antithetical to the very principles of democracy and equality.
What do you think? Want to let CBS know? It’s not too late.