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The Story Behind the TV Networks' UCC Ad 'Ban'

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Newspapers today are aflutter over decisions from CBS and NBC nine months ago to reject advertising from the United Church of Christ. It is a significant story, but what's particularly remarkable about the press coverage is how many papers filed original reports instead of picking up a wire service version. Perhaps it's because every town has a UCC congregation to give the "local angle" on the story.

The reason for the "ban," the networks said, was that they constitute "advocacy advertising." Wink, wink, nod, nod—we all know what the ads were really banned for, don't we? Most newspapers sure do:

"CBS and NBC [deemed] the 30-second commercial 'too controversial' because of its depiction of gay couples at a time when the Bush administration has called for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage," says the Des Moines Register.

"CBS and NBC refused to run a United Church of Christ ad promoting acceptance regardless of sexual orientation," says the Lawrence Journal-World.

"TV spot alludes to the acceptance of gays," says the deck of The Press-Enterprise's story.

The Boston Globe explains, "Two broadcast networks are refusing to air an ad from the United Church of Christ because the spot, intended to make the point that the Protestant denomination is welcoming, briefly shows two men who are holding hands being turned away from an unnamed church."

(Other coverage includes The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, The Kansas City Star, The Capital Times of Madison, Wis.,

Here's the problem. These newspapers are only partly right. In its rejection letter to the denomination last March, CBS told the denomination, "Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups … and the fact that the ...

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Launched in 1999, Christianity Today’s Weblog was not just one of the first religion-oriented weblogs, but one of the first published by a media organization. (Hence its rather bland title.) Mostly compiled by then-online editor Ted Olsen, Weblog rounded up religion news and opinion pieces from publications around the world. As Christianity Today’s website grew, it launched other blogs. Olsen took on management responsibilities, and the Weblog feature as such was mothballed. But CT’s efforts to round up important news and opinion from around the web continues, especially on our Gleanings feature.
Ted Olsen
Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's managing editor for news and online journalism. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
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