CBS had already exercised censorship by rejecting political ad

February 06, 2004

Dear Editor:

In his Tuesday column, Gary Moyers laments the lack of governmental censorship evidenced in Janet Jackson's infamous "costume malfunction" during the Superbowl halftime show. Moyers writes: "When parents like me, who adamantly oppose governmental censorship under normal circumstances, are offended, the case for those in favor of it becomes much stronger."

As the parent of a young child myself, I share Mr. Moyer's concern about the increasing prevalence of explicit sexual imagery, graphic violence and profanity on network television - in addition to the lack of substantive political debate and the blurring of the line between news and entertainment.

In light of the title of Moyer's column (Superbowl halftime: A place for censorship), however, I was surprised that he made no reference to another censorship-related issue connected to the Superbowl. I am referring to the refusal of CBS to run the 30-second ad that won first place in a competition sponsored by the left-of-center Web site, This ad, called "Child's Pay," contains no sexually provocative imagery or profanity. With the sound of an acoustic guitar in the background, it simply shows one child washing dishes, another mopping floors, another working on an assembly line, another as a cashier. Toward the end a question appears on the screen: "Guess who's going to pay off President Bush's $1 trillion deficit?"


In today's news it was widely reported that CBS has received several thousand phone calls protesting the Jackson/Timberlake performance. Since announcing their decision not to run "Child's Pay" (despite's having collected the $2 million-plus to run the ad) CBS has received over 340,000 complaints.

It seems the Superbowl halftime was a place for censorship after all, even if it was exercised by a corporation rather than a government. Then again, these days it's hard to tell the difference.

What's more disturbing: A teen idol singing "I'll have you naked by the end of this song" to the acclaim of millions of your fellow citizens, or a network that runs raunchy beer ads and is willing to promote several drugs to treat erectile dysfunction, but finds understated political commentary too controversial?

Todd Gooch


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