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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Staff Editorial

Controversy sells easily at CBS for $2.5 million

As fans prepare to take in the battle between the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints on Super Bowl Sunday, they’re being drawn into another battle that has nothing to do with football.

CBS, the network broadcasting the game, is planning to run an ad that features Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother telling the story of her ignoring doctor’s orders to abort her pregnancy in 1987 and give birth to Tim. The ad is sponsored by conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, and critics are saying it does nothing more than spread the group’s anti-abortion message.

With the ad’s price tag at $2.5 million, some are saying that Focus would be better off spending that money on women’s shelters or educating young people on how to make the difficult decisions associated with an unexpected pregnancy.

But when you delve deeper into CBS’s decision to air the controversial ad, which has been condemned by groups such as the National Organization for Women, the Feminist Majority and the Women’s Media Center, you discover that this is not the network’s first go-round with controversial ads.

In 2004, citing a policy held by all the major networks to not air ads of an inflammatory or controversial nature, CBS refused to air an ad by the liberal-leaning United Church of Christ, citing the UCC’s inclusive policy toward gays and others who might feel rejected by more conservative churches.

CBS took quite a bit of flack for rejecting that spot and may be preemptively caving to the groups who agree with Focus’ stance. At the same time, it’s not as though CBS is desperate for companies to fill its slots, furthering the notion that it doesn’t mind the controversy as long as it agrees with the advertiser’s stance.

That notion goes to the core of protesters’ arguments – that the Super Bowl is not the time or place to dictate moral policy or stoke the flames of an already-hot-button issue. Would CBS air such an ad if Tebow’s mother were someone advocating abortion as an option to save the life of a woman who has a high-risk pregnancy? One has to assume the network would not. If that is the case, this is a clear-cut example of hypocrisy at its finest.

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