Played Like A Cheap Violin

The Associated Press is reporting that the kerfluffle over the so-called silencing of the Dixie Chicks and the ads for their new movie appear to be nothing more than a publicity stunt. So say the networks involved, NBC and CW.

CBS has agreed to air the ad, a spokeswoman for the Weinstein Co. said. ABC and Fox have not given an answer while the CW and NBC rejected it. The film distributors said NBC explained it was because the ad disparaged President Bush.

"We were very surprised, especially because this is a movie that deals with the whole issue," said Gary Faber, head of marketing at Weinstein. He suggested that the statements made in the ad are not unlike the opinions offered by commentators on political talk shows.

But Alan Wurtzel, head of standards and practices at NBC, said it is network policy not to accept ads on issues of public controversy — like abortion or the war.

While the Weinstein Co. had shown NBC its ads, it had not inquired about buying commercial time, he said. Generally, when an ad is rejected, prospective advertisers return and work with the network on ways to make it acceptable — as was done with the Michael Moore film "Fahrenheit 9/11," he said.

But NBC heard nothing more from makers of "Shut Up & Sing" until portions of what NBC executives thought were confidential business correspondence showed up in a news release, he said.

"There was no attempt to come back and have a conversation," Wurtzel said. "There are times when some advertisers get more publicity for having their ad rejected."

The CW said a Weinstein representative discussed the ad with a low-level network official who questioned whether the network had the right programming to fit the ad.

"It was the beginning of a dialogue at a low level and it didn't get beyond that when they decided to go to the media about it," network spokesman Paul McGuire said.

The CW would accept the ad if commercial time was bought, he said. (Emphasis added)

Now the right leaning bloggers I have read about this either dismissed it out of hand as a publicity stunt or, as I did, made fun of the Chicks and their hyperventilation. Or both. But the left? A different story altogether.

TPM: "This really is pretty unbelievable: NBC won't run ads for the Dixie Chicks documentary because, in the words of the NBC's commercial clearance department, "they are disparaging to President Bush."

Networks usually at least go to the length of coming up with a phony 'we don't run ads with a political message' excuse. But I'm not sure I've ever seen one say something like this."

All Spin Zone: "Two interesting stories have emerged today regarding NBC and their political bias. If you need further evidence after Path to 9/11 that the big three networks are almost, in essence, state-controlled TV, look no further."

Crooks and Liars: "Back in 2003, I was busy practicing and playing music as much as I could, but when I heard that maniacs were issuing death threats against the Dixie Chicks because they spoke out against Bush—you might say it woke me up about where our country was headed. Not about Bush, but about wingnut behavior. I knew they were setting the tone that anyone who spoke out against their Dear Leader was in for a world of hurt. I take a very deep interest in the Dixie Chicks now because of their courage.

AmericaBlog: "Let's just all pack up and move to Canada because this isn't our country anymore. But then again, I have a better idea. Once Democrats win back the congress we have a long and hard look at media consolidation, and more importantly, media bias and whether the large networks have essentially been bought off by the Republicans. The Fairness Doctrine went away a long time ago, and as a result, whether through coercion or wooing, the networks have gone Republican.

The Agonist: "I imagine NBC just made sure a lot of people will go see it. NBC is owned by GE, by the way. By pretending not to be political, they just made sure that they will be seen as political. A lot of of companies have been doing this. Interesting bet they're making. They better hope they win it.

Hullabaloo: "Call me cynical, but I suspect that if the Republicans are out of office, they still won't have any problem getting their propaganda publicized like mad on all the major networds, no matter how vicious, how false, or how un-American.

What to do in the here and now? Well, I'd boycott NBC except for one thing. I can't remember the last time I watched anything on NBC. The closest was a few Olbermann web clips that didn't have any commercials, so I guess I've just been given one more very good reason to ignore NBC's programming."

Glenn Greenwald: "The networks are still a very powerful public opinion instrument, and allowing them to become political propaganda venues — where messages that "disparage" the Leader are prohibited while all sorts of pro-Leader messages are allowed — has the potential to be quite harmful. We seem to be well on our way to that result."

Every single one of you just got played. You got suckered by what you wanted to hear coming from somebody you thought was a hero (or from the corporation representing them). They took you in and used you to give them free publicity.

And you should be righteously pissed. Big time.

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15 Responses to Played Like A Cheap Violin

  1. Pingback: UPDATE: Screw The Dixie Chicks « Sigmund, Carl and Alfred

  2. dymphna says:

    Do we sound as lockstep to them as they do to us?

    My favorite was…”if the Republicans are out of office, they still won’t have any problem getting their propaganda publicized like mad on all the major networds, no matter how vicious, how false, or how un-American.”

    Absoloootely. That’s why we ran Foley 24/7, and have lionized the fat boy of “Columbine” fame. And that’s why Repubicans have to have that snuff film of Bush’s assassination in the theatres asap.

    Not to forget that the President has the NYT in his pocket. That’s why they never leak anything of substance on intel. And that’s why they ignored Abu Ghraib so completely. If it hadn’t been for Fox running those day and night exposés, we’d never have known about those tortures…and, of course, when the Iraqis took over A.B. and the prisoners were begging the Americans to return, why the NYT played that one front and center till we were all sick of it.

    Yes, sir. Those evil Republicans and their satanic control of the media is something to behold…

  3. Gaius says:

    And the worst thing is, I don’t think they will understand how badly they have been played here. Or won’t recognize it.

  4. Pingback: Sister Toldjah » Dixie Chicks pull PR stunt; claim NBC refused to air ad “because it disparaged the President”

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  6. dymphna? That may well be the funniest thing I’ve read this week.

  7. AskMom says:

    Oh how it hurt to give up the Chicks. But when even Starbucks became part of the great left-wing conspiracy to not silence and suppress them, I knew the girls and I were through :)

  8. Could we stop with the Dixie Chicks already? Been there, done that. Saw one concert on TV. Thought they were mildly entertaining. Don’t care what they said 3 years ago, although I was annoyed at the time.

    They forgot one cardinal rule of entertainers. The public has to like your persona and delivery as well as your act. I propose a new system for ticket prices. One price for your act and 25% off if I am compelled to listen you your politics. Why not a 2 tier system, one set politics-free and one full on for polical rants. If you pay regular price you get a discount later at the box office for having to listen to this garbage, if you haven’t been warned in advance. Celebrity politics, what a bore.

    Fritz

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  14. Mikey NTH says:

    So this is an advertising agency? And it wen tout of its way to cheese off NBC, all to create a controversy for its client, the Dixie Chicks?

    If I was one of the agency’s clients I would look real hard at getting another agency before trying to buy time on NBC.

  15. Lex says:

    “There was no attempt to come back and have a conversation,” Wurtzel said. “There are times when some advertisers get more publicity for having their ad rejected.”

    Interesting quote from the NBC S&P guy. If accurate, it seems to call into question the notion that NBC never rejected the ad.

    Whether it did or not, NBC could’ve prevented this by doing the thing the law basically requires them to do, which is air any advertisement that isn’t fradulent, obscene or (within certain time slots) indecent, whether it be about abortion, gay marriage, the Dixie Chicks or whatever. Instead, they pussyfooted around and, at best, were victimized by their own ineptitude. At worst, they were caught doing the government’s bidding. We’ll probably never know which.

    But the bigger problem — one that, if addressed, would pretty much end controversies like this — is that all of the broadcast networks have been all over the lot on the subject of “controversial” or “political” advertising at least since I first got into broadcasting almost 30 years ago, partly out of slavery to political agendas and partly out of an almost uncontrollable urge to treat Americans like idiots. So you’ll have to forgive me if I’m a little less willing than other folks here to take what NBC says at face value.

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