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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
April 14, 2006

A second UCC ad is rejected, even by an LGBT network

Cleveland--The United Church of Christ�s new advertisement promoting their inclusiveness has been rejected by a number of broadcast and cable networks, most notably the LGBT channel Logo.

The �Ejector� ad, which can be viewed online at www.ucc.org/commercial.html, shows a number of �undesirables� being shot into the air with ejector seats on church pews.

The first victim is an African American single mother with a crying baby, followed by a same-sex male couple, a man who looks Middle Eastern and a number of other anonymous figures, including an elderly person with a walker.

When an apparently homeless person sits down, the family sitting on the same pew sidle away from her.

Text then appears on the screen reading, �God doesn�t reject people. Neither do we,� followed by a voiceover: �The United Church of Christ. No matter who you are or where you are on life�s journey, you�re welcome here.�

However, despite the humorous tone of the ad and the relative neutrality of the message, it, like the UCC�s earlier �Bouncer� advertisement, has been rejected by the four major broadcast networks, as well as many of their affiliated cable channels.

Viacom, the former parent company of CBS, rejected the ad across the board, including on its MTV-run LGBT network Logo.

�The problem here is a problem of media ownership,� said Ron Buford, coordinator and team leader of the UCC�s Stillspeaking Initiative.

He noted that, while Logo markets to the gay community with predominantly LGBT programming, it is still owned by a large corporation that is mainly comprised of heterosexuals in its upper echelons.

An advertising sales representative�s March 30 e-mail to the UCC explaining the rejection stated that the ad was turned away for the �political nature of its content,� while MTV Networks later said, �Our guidelines state we will not accept religious advertisements that may be deemed as disparaging to another religion.�

GLAAD is silent

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has been silent on the conflict between the church and Logo.

In 2004, the organization, whose mission is to promote positive portrayals of LGBT people in the media, took Viacom to task for its refusal to air the earlier commercial on its broadcast networks. At the time, Viacom claimed that the ads amounted to a political endorsement of same-sex marriage, but allowed its cable outlets to run it.

�CBS and NBC�s decision to reject an advertisement by the United Church of Christ that affirms its inclusion of diverse people of faith, including same-sex couples, raises significant concerns not only for GLAAD, but also for many in the LGBT and faith communities,� Glennda Testone, the organization�s media director, said in the 2004 release.

GLAAD went on to honor the �Bouncer� ad with an award for outstanding electronic advertisement.

Logo is broadcasting the GLAAD Media Awards this weekend, for the second year in a row. There is nothing on the group�s website criticizing the network for refusing to run the advertisement.

�One of the things GLAAD can do is honestly let people know about this situation as we are, and encourage people to write in to the network and the FCC and complain,� Buford said, noting that he believes creating a rift between GLAAD and other LGBT-supportive organizations would be counter-productive.

�As Billie Holiday says, God bless the child that has his own,� he mused. �We need our own network. Just because it�s gay, doesn�t mean we own it.�

The two major Spanish-language networks, Univision and Telemundo, also rejected the �Ejector� ad. Telemundo is owned by NBC Universal.

Fear of the religious right

Buford, who ironically was named of the top 100 most interesting, influential and newsworthy LGBT individuals by Logo and Out magazine last November, believes that it may be time to take the lessons of the past and apply them to the current situation.

�Their story can only be told with the permission of a few powerful people who are not sympathetic to our cause,� he noted. �Gay people everywhere should rise up in righteous indignation and act. It�s not about us, it�s about freedom.�

He pointed to the work of ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, which loudly demonstrated against drug companies and government agencies in the 1980s and �90s.

�Some people who might have been dead today owe their lives to ACT UP,� he said. �We need to act, and maybe act up. People in the U.S. have grown increasingly used to having their freedom taken away.�

He stressed the need to �act up, boycott and organize� continuously, believing that much of the networks� reluctance to air the ad stems from fear of the religious right.

�What the religious right has done is what ACT UP did for us--speak up,� he noted, stressing the need for the LGBT community to assert itself as powerfully as evangelical conservatives.

�Hopefully people will begin to get really mad and say, you know, our nation wasn�t built on the rights of a few people to take away the rights of so many,� Buford stated. �We think in this country about a foreign country coming in to take our rights away, but we have narrow corporate interests doing that.�

A few bright spots emerged in the struggle to get the �Ejector� ad on the air. First, some cable networks have approved it, including TNT, TBS, A&E, American Movie Classics, Black Entertainment Television and others.

Here! TV, a primarily pay-per-view LGBT network available on many cable and satellite systems, approached the UCC and offered to air the ad--for free.

�One of the things I want to do is find out how to tell people ways to support Here for what they�re doing,� Buford said.

Here, which predates the debut of Logo, offers LGBT films and some other programming, mainly on a per-show basis, although some systems offer it as a premium network.

Information on which systems carry Here programming is available online at www.heretv.com/AGetHerePage.php.

�It would be great if people would pay attention to it and seek it out and buy that service,� he said.

What it boils down to, however, is public ownership of the airwaves, Buford stressed.

He pointed to the heyday of the civil rights movement, when WLBT-TV in Jackson, Mississippi would routinely claim technical difficulties when African American politicians were on, or for other people who supported civil rights.

Future Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Berger, then an appeals court judge, ruled that the station was in violation of its license, since the airwaves were public property, and that it did not serve the public interest to black out those stories.

�I think the networks think they�re fulfilling the public interest by covering these topics in the news, and they have done that,� Buford said. �There are an increasing number of places for us, and the best way to get that message out there is on TV, but that door is closed to us.�

Neither GLAAD nor Logo returned calls for comment on this story by press time.���������� |

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