Tuesday, April 17, 2012

ESPN rejects "political" ad and sparks controversy

A look inside ESPN's ad-approval process
How does ESPN assess advertisements for its networks? And why does it sometimes reject them? The answers sometimes depend not just on the ads themselves, but on where those ads send viewers and what they find there.

That issue came up late last month in connection with an ad from the Rise Up and Register Campaign, a voter-registration effort aimed at NASCAR fans. In the ad, second-year racer Blake Koch (pronounced Cook) notes that more than half of racing fans didn’t vote in the last election, and admits he was one of them.

"It’s time for all of us -- the entire NASCAR nation -– to rise up and make our voices heard in this election," he says.

ESPN rejected Rise Up and Register’s ad, deciding it violated its policy (communicated to ad agencies) of not taking ads that include political or issue-oriented advocacy or ads from religious institutions. Last month, Koch -– who often shares his testimony at churches -- appeared on "Fox and Friends" to discuss the decision and whether he was being targeted for his religious beliefs.

"I didn’t think that my faith in Christ would have an impact on whether or not a sponsor could air a commercial or not," he told Fox.
Read the rest here.

The reason ESPN gave for rejecting the advertisement? The Rise Up and Register Campaign website links to another site called "Be My Vote," an organization that seeks to increase voter registration among evangelical Christians.

The ad that was rejected by ESPN is below.

As a private, non-state actor ESPN is under no obligation to run the ad. But it seems odd that an apolitical ad that simply urges people to vote in an election year is pretty harmless. So what if one of seven of the links appearing on the ad proponent's website--which isn't linked or mentioned in the ad at all--is engaged in advocacy?

If websites really are judged by the company we keep (with links), IBCR will never get an ad to run on ESPN...


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