Senators Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) want to know specific reasons for CBS radio stations’ rejection of an ad by the American Television Alliance.
Two U.S. senators have written a letter to CBS CEO Leslie Moonves seeking more information on CBS Radio’s refusal last month to run an ad by the cable and satellite-backed American Television Alliance that supported the retrans reform proposal called “local choice” proposed by Sens. Jay Rockefeller and John Thune. (That proposal has now been removed from the Satellite Television Access and Viewer Rights Act.)
Sens. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) wrote: “We support an open and honest debate about the future of the video marketplace. While we do not contest CBS’s right to exercise appropriate discretion over its advertising practices, important questions need to be answered about blocking commercial advertisements in this specific instance. Given the fact that CBS maintains important public interest obligations related to its programming, we respectfully request your response to the following questions:
- What is the specific reason CBS refused to run these advertisements and is that reason consistent with CBS’s advertising standards?
- Before CBS’s denial, did it consider the fact that these advertisements were placed to run on other platforms?
- Did CBS provide ATVA with a reason for not airing the advertisements?
- Has CBS refused to run advertisements related to communications policy issues in the past? If so, please specify.
- Would CBS ever consider denying opportunities to air advertisements by political committees or other entities whose policy views CBS disagrees with?
- To paraphrase Justice Brandeis, in cases where CBS has an editorial or commercial position contrary to a prospective advertiser seeking to espouse a reasonable though different view, isn’t the best remedy more speech, rather than enforced silence?”
They end the letter: “Harmful interference into our nation’s public policy debates can have lasting impacts on our political discourse and the future direction of the country. The best way for us to effectively serve our constituents is to promote open dialogue and the honest debate of mainstream ideas. Ultimately, Congress has an obligation to look at old regulatory frameworks and explore whether potential opportunities exist to enhance consumer welfare for the benefit of the country while also preserving the underlying benefits of local broadcasting across the country, which relies on the use of public airwaves. Thank you for your timely consideration of this important issue.”