Twice no to UCC, ABC gives yes to Focus on the Family TV spot
Written by J. Bennett Guess
June-July 2005

After twice denying ad placement by the UCC, the ABC television network allowed James Dobson's Focus on the Family to air two commercials on May 2 during the season finale of "Supernanny," causing the UCC's director of communication to cry foul.

"Why is one religious viewpoint continually accommodated by the network elites?" asked the Rev. Robert Chase of the UCC's proclamation, identity and communication ministry in Cleveland.

The controversy was discussed widely on internet blogs during the first week of May before being picked up by several traditional media outlets, including The New York Times on May 7.

After a reporter from Religion News Service questioned the network's decision, an ABC spokesperson said, "The network doesn't take advertising from religious groups. It's a long-standing policy."

Chase said Focus on the Family's mission statement, as well as its television ad, plainly identifies the organization's purpose.

"Focus on the Family is clearly a religious organization," Chase told United Church News. "Here's yet another illustration of how a particular narrow agenda makes up the rules as they go along, while another religious viewpoint cannot even purchase time on the people's airwaves to proclaim an all-inclusive message."

In December and March, the three major networks denied the UCC's purchasing request. NBC and CBS rejected the UCC's "bouncer ad" as "too controversial." ABC rejected both of the church's 30-second ads, claiming it had a blanket policy against all religious advertising.

"This is exactly why we need to have the [Federal Communication Commission] to step up to the plate and hold hearings on the networks' arbitrary and capricious definitions of religion and how this sabotages the public interest," Chase said on accessibleairwaves.com, a website devoted to the controversy.

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Rev. J. Bennett Guess
Executive Minister, Local Church Ministries
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland,Ohio 44115
216-736-3801
guessb@ucc.org