Move On, Move Out

The famous 'progressive' web presence MoveOn.org is asking for people to sign a petition to CBS demanding that they air MoveOn's Superbowl Ad.

First off, the ad makes a very good point. The mounting federal deficits the Bush administration is only to happy to incur will have to be paid eventually, and it will be the generation represented in the ad that has to. I wish that CBS would air the ad.

Beyond that, MoveOn loses it. The petition says:

YOUR PETITION LETTER

TO: CBS President Les Moonves
CC: Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone
FROM: (Your Name and Email)
SUBJECT: Don't Censor Ads
__________

Dear Gentlemen,

(Your personal note)

As one of the nation's largest media outlets and a respected source of news and entertainment, CBS has an obligation to be fair. By running an ad from the White House Office of Drug Policy while turning down ads by MoveOn.org Voter Fund and PETA, CBS appears to be acting out of political bias, censoring ads which express opinions it dislikes.

Please allow these ads to run during the Super Bowl. If you don't, you risk losing your credibility and the public's trust.

Sincerely,

(your name)
(your address)

The errors are easy to spot. First, CBS is a private business, and has no obligation "to be fair." They can run whatever programming they like, and refuse any they don't. I don't like their action in this case either, but them's the breaks.

They certainly are showing a bias here. My television station would would be instructed to make colorful remarks about the President's maternal heritage every time someone in his office called us up asking for airtime; sadly, CBS has a friendlier strategy, which is no doubt politically motivated. But again, just like my station would be more liberty-oriented and MoveOn's would be more left-oriented, CBS is CBS-oriented, which right now means pro-Bush. MoveOnTV would feel and in fact be right in turning down programming they didn't agree with.

Lastly, the claim of censorship. What a private entity chooses to do with its airtime is not censhorship no matter what the decision is. All CBS is doing is refusing to do business with a group they don't want to support. What Caesar does is censor; what CBS does is just BS.

Is the distinction between public and private really so hard to make? It's not impossible that they're trying to smear or obliterate that distinction, but if MoveOnTV ever goes on the air, they'll change their tune quickly, I bet.

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It is ludicrous for any

It is ludicrous for any organization, or individual, to claim to be without bias. Honesty is not avoiding bias--that is impossible. Honesty is acknowledging bias, identifying it. Reveal your assumptions!

It seems to me that nothing

It seems to me that nothing is less understood than the notion of property rights. A private broadcaster can decide to not do business with someone. A mall can evict people wearing t-shirts the mall owner doesn't like. A bank can refuse to lend somebody money if they don't like the risk involved. Yet somehow, in this day and age, great swaths of the public think these things are "wrong", and must be banned.

Given the role of the

Given the role of the federal government in creating the communications infrastructure CBS depends on, cartelizing the broadcast media through the FCC licensing system, and cartelizing the economy on which the national advertising market is based, I'd say CBS is about as much a "private" firm as McDonnell-Douglass.

That being said, the solution is to eliminate the existing government privilege, not to use it as a pretext for more regulation. Get Moonves off the government tit.

Kevin, you brought up a good

Kevin, you brought up a good point, and my analysis did leave that out. Rather than including that point, because the answer is simple (you've given both in two sentences) I left it to the reader.

And don't forget the part

And don't forget the part about the public air waves, which those 'private' broadcasters get to use at a ridiculous fraction of their real worth (get to use and by using monopolize), in exchange for which, as the original set-up (or giveaway) had it, they are expected to offer a modicum of public interest broadcasting. In short, it's just not all that private - to put it mildly.

I thank CBS for not screwing

I thank CBS for not screwing up my Superbowl Sunday. Please don't air overtly political ads that will inject heavy politics into a day that should be free of it.

I know that some people cannot seem to draw a line between the drug ads and the MoveOn ad, but here is a simple test that I have devised: Will it cause people to argue?

Last year when the "Drugs support terrorism" ads came on the screen, somebody shouted out that he was doing his best to protect the country by growing it domestically in his closet. People laughed; nobody really cared. Now, go forward a few days and picture the MoveOn ad appearing while I am sitting around watching the game with friends from all over the political spectrum. It will cause somebody to huff or sigh when it comes on. Somebody will jump to the defense of MoveOn, and my Superbowl party will be ruined.

CBS did the right thing.