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 thefilm "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.