Focus on the Family’s airtime

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY’S AIRTIME…. For much of the Bush era, progressive voices found it surprisingly difficult to purchase television advertising time. MoveOn.org tried to buy an ad on GOP corruption, but NBC wouldn’t air it. The Center for Constitutional Rights tried to buy an ad about torture, but Fox News wouldn’t air it. The progressive United Church of Christ put together an ad that told viewers, “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you’re welcome here.” All of the major networks refused to run it.

And in 2004, MoveOn.org raised enough money to buy an ad during the Super Bowl, but CBS rejected it, noting its “long-term policy not to air issue ads anywhere on the network.” The spot was about the Bush/Cheney deficits, which the network described as “divisive.”

It looks like conservative voices are having more luck now.

Will television viewers take issue with issue advertising during a Super Bowl?

That is what CBS will find out as it gets ready to broadcast Super Bowl XLIV on Feb. 7. An evangelical organization, Focus on the Family, that takes stands on issues like abortion and gay marriage — the organization opposes both — is buying a commercial during the game.

Issue ads are rare during Super Bowls, partly because almost all the time is bought by marketers of consumer products and partly because the networks have strict policies regarding the discussion of contentious issues in national commercials.

The Focus on the Family ad will reportedly feature college football player Tim Tebow and his mother, both of whom have spoken publicly about their opposition to abortion rights.

It creates an interesting situation. Does Focus spend a lot of money on a commercial with a vague, watered-down message? Does Focus push the envelope and force CBS to reject the spot?

Or are we left with a situation in which issue/advocacy advertising on television is fine, so just so long as it’s a conservative message?