Some of the images the TV networks refused to air (credit: US Action)
In full-fledged retreat from reality, the four major TV networks refused to air a public interest ad (hear the ad the networks don’t want you to hear) from US Action, a labor advocacy/social justice group, that opposes the Bush position on tort reform (see 4 Networks Reject Ad Opposing Bush on Lawsuits). Bush wishes to cap all jury awards for medical malpractice and product liability cases at $250,000. Labor, trial lawyer and consumer rights groups generally oppose the Administration position. While President Bush has been out on the campaign trail flogging tort reform replete with misleading statistics (see below) that make the issue into a false ‘crisis,’ it appears that consumer interest groups will have a hard time making their voices heard since the public airwaves are now largely closed to them.
Gee, I always thought that the airwaves belonged to the people. I didn’t know that they were the bastion of the government, advertisers and major corporate interests! It seems that the hard-earned money of public interest groups like US Action isn’t good enough for the networks. First, they were afraid of the FCC levying heavy fines on them for showing a flicker of breast on air. Now what are they afraid of? A balanced debate over national policy regarding tort reform? Why does Bush get to go all over the country spouting nonsense about how the lawyers are killing us with big jury awards and have his appearances covered on national and local nightly news, while the voice of the people (in the form of these ads) is silenced?
Let’s hear how one of the networks explained its cupidity (from the NYT article):
The NBC Universal Television Network, owned by General Electric, told the group, “We are sorry that we cannot accept your ad based on our network policy regarding controversial issue advertising.”
As a general rule, the policy says, “time will not be sold on NBC Network facilities for the presentation of views on controversial issues.”
Have you ever heard such timorousness?? Bush’s position which is aired every time he talks about it publicly must not be “controversial.” But when a countering view comes from an insurgent group, then (shudder, shudder) it’s “controversial.” Just think what our Constitution or BIll of Rights would look like if the Founding Fathers had refused to address “controversial” issues.
Oh, and congratulations to CNN which somehow found that running the ad would not cause the very foundation of the nation or the network to tumble in ruins.
Here’s what Jim Hightower has to say about Bush’s propaganda on the issue of tort reform:
Bush’s handlers sent him to Collinsville, Illinois, just outside of St. Louis, where he held a photo-op and labeled both St. Clair and Madison counties as “judicial hell holes.” He noted that 720 malpractice and wrongful death suits have been filed there against area practitioners in the past seven years, with jury awards causing enormous economic damage to them and curtailing health care in the area.
The watchdog group, Public Citizen, found that of the 720 cases that George cited, only 14 resulted in jury verdicts. And only seven of those verdicts sided with the patients. Excuse me, but seven verdicts in seven years is hardly a federal crisis.
Moreover, Bush’s proposed remedy is to cap pain-and-suffering damages at $250,000 per case. Yet, in the two counties cited by George as judicial hell holes, only one case – one! – resulted in a jury award that exceeded this cap. Again, this is hardly a runaway system requiring federal intervention.
What an outrage! If it bugs you as much as it does me, then write to the FCC and the networks (CBS, ABC, NBC ) letting them know how hateful you find this decision. You may also contribute to US Action so that they can get the word out through alternative means in the media.
The New York Times writes that “business groups, including the National Association of Manufacturers and the United States Chamber of Commerce, plan media and lobbying campaigns in support of Mr. Bush’s proposals on civil litigation.” Will the networks find ads from these folks to be non-controversial??
Where would France be today if the publisher of the Parisian newspaper
L’Aurore had refused to publish Emile Zola’s libelous diatribe, “An
Open Letter To The President of The Republic,” in 1898? Written at
a time when all of France believed that Dreyfus was guilty and that
the French Army was above reproach, the publisher would have been
wise to refuse such an explosive article. Yet it electrified the
staff when Zola read it. Editor Georges Clemenceau even ginned up
the title as, “I ACCUSE!” to ensure that it couldn’t be ignored, and
that the French people would be informed that there WAS another side
to the case–no matter how unpopular it appeared to be at the moment.