MoveOn blackens Eye with bias charge

Org claims net offering payback for ownership benefit

WASHINGTON — Liberal group MoveOn has targeted CBS, accusing the net of political favoritism for refusing to air its anti-Bush ad during the Super Bowl.

MoveOn called on its members Thursday to contact CBS stations around the country and give them an earful about the decision to reject the group’s ad.

The charge comes on the heels of CBS’ controversial decision to yank its miniseries on former president Reagan last year. This time the org maintains CBS is trying to curry favor with the White House as payback for a deal the administration cut with congressional Republicans on media ownership that would directly benefit the net.

In December, White House officials and GOP leaders changed language in a final version of a spending bill raising a cap on the percentage of TV households one company can reach from 35% to 39%, a level that would prevent CBS parent company Viacom (as well as News Corp./Fox) from being forced to sell some TV stations.

The Federal Communications Commission had raised the limit to 45% last year, generating a public backlash. FCC critics in Congress were set to restore the original 35% until the White House stepped in. The final version of the bill containing the 39% cap passed the Senate Thursday and now awaits the president’s signature.

CBS told MoveOn that it would not run the winning spot from the group’s recent “Bush in 30 Seconds” TV ad contest during the Super Bowl because of a long-standing policy against running political issue ads.

The MoveOn ad titled “Child’s Play” bashes George W. Bush’s role in increasing the federal deficit and depicts children performing a variety of jobs, such as washing dishes in a restaurant, cleaning an office building and working on an assembly line.

MoveOn claims the CBS has a double standard when it comes to Super Bowl ad selection because the net plans to run an issue ad produced by the White House Office of National Drug Control policy during the game.

“It seems to us that CBS simply defers to those it fears or from whom it wants favors — in this case, the Bush White House,” Eli Pariser, campaign director for MoveOn.org, said in a statement. “And this is the same CBS that has lobbied hard and will benefit from recent changes by Congress in Federal Communications Commission restrictions on the ownership of local TV stations.”

CBS rejects the charges and claims MoveOn is simply trying to generate free publicity by attacking the net.

“Our policy regarding advocacy advertising is longstanding and clear,” a CBS spokesman told Daily Variety. “The policy is designed so that deep pockets don’t control one side of the issue.”

The spokesman argued that comparing a general audience anti-drug ad and a partisan ad attacking the president during an election year doesn’t make sense.

“If there’s a reasonable argument to be had as to why drug abuse is a good thing,” he said, “I’d like to know what it is.”

Spokesman added that CBS has aired White House drug ads from previous Democratic administrations during the Super Bowl so the favoritism argument “has no merit.”

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