“Yanking” spots

Fall is supposed to be a lovely time of year. Temperatures cool. Leaves do amazing things before they tumble into the yard to be raked, Mother Nature’s annual reminder of how out of shape we are.

Then we turn on the radio and Fall is quickly ugly.

Political commercials.

As we’ve mentioned before, radio and television stations are often at the mercy of candidate commercials. FCC rules limit the ability of broadcasters to refuse inaccurate, even profane, candidate commercials.

The Missourinet in the last few days has had to deal with a situation involving an inaccurate commercial. The Robin Carnahan campaign press release says “Statewide Radio Network Yanks False Attack Ad by Americans for Job Security.”

The commercial WAS inaccurate.

We did not YANK the spot, however.

Before we go into a discussion of what REALLY happened, you need to understand something: The people who sell advertising for our company are at the far end of our building. We talk to them and are friends with them but they do not ask us if it’s OK for them to sell a commercial or take a commercial being placed by an outside agency and put it on our air. On the other hand, the sales department in no way influences the content of our newscasts. We have sometimes (often in political years) run stories critical of advertisers, sometimes adjacent to a commercial for the advertiser. We never know, in fact, what commercial is going to run in our newscasts because commercials are programmed by a computer in the basement and we record our newscasts on the first floor. We pause and the computer inserts whatever commercial it is programmed to insert regardless of what we say in the newscast. Frankly we pay little attention to what commercial is in our newscast.

So our business office gets the anti-Carnahan commercial from the Americans for Job Security, one of those organizations that obscures its purpose behind a white bread name. They seem to be as numerous as the falling leaves. But at least with leaves, we know where they’re coming from.

Well, anyway…

We get this AJS commercial that claimed Carnahan had been voting “in lockstep” with President Obama’s agenda. It also said President Obama had said “he’d have his whole agenda done if he’d had Carnahan’s vote.,” Shortly after we started airing the commercial on our newscasts and our affiliated stations started carrying them we got a letter from the lawyers for the Carnahan campaign urging us to stop carrying the spot. The letter also went to managers of our affiliates saying their FCC licenses could be at risk if they didn’t stop the spots. It pointed out that FCC rules limited their abilities to censor candidate commercials but independent organizations like the ASJ do not have the same unfettered access to run misleading commercials.

The folks at the other end of the building DID NOT “yank” the commercials. They did notify AJS of the complaint and asked for a correction. The lawyers had correctly pointed out that Carnahan has certainly not voted in lockstep with the Obama administration because she’s the Secretary of State, not a member of Congress, and Secretaries of State don’t vote on administration proposals. Furthermore the spot incorrectly quoted the President who said only that his WALL STREET REFORM proposal would have passed earlier if Carnahan had been in the Senate.

Our company placed the call to AJS Thursday evening. The revised, corrected, commercial arrived during the weekend and replaced the offending one on Monday. However the offending commercial had continued to run on our newscasts until the revision was put into the system Monday..The folks at the other end of the building made that decision.

Those of us in the newsroom didn’t even know all of this was going on until we got the news release from the Carnahan campaign .

So the commercials WERE misleading. So was the news release indicating that we YANKED them.

And just think: this kind of stuff is likely to continue for two more months.

Life is a whole lot nicer when all we have to write about is a wandering goat in Mexico.

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