Dec. 15, 2004
The Rev. Larry Hollon
(UMNS) – The United Church of Christ is asking the Federal
Communications Commission to deny license renewals for two network-owned
television stations in Miami, as a result of CBS and NBC refusing to
air the denomination’s commercial.
church is challenging the renewal of licenses for WFOR-TV (CBS) and
WJVT-TV (NBC) because "there is substantial and material question" as to
whether the stations’ parent companies, Viacom Inc. and the General
Electric Co., have operated the stations in the public interest.
and CBS have refused to run the commercial because the all-inclusive
message "implies acceptance of gay and lesbian couples," according to
the United Church of Christ. The petitions to the FCC were filed Dec. 9.
spokesperson for CBS said the United Church of Christ never approached
WFOR-TV about running the ad. A United Methodist News Service query to
NBC had not been answered by press time.
United Church of Christ is following FCC guidelines that local license
challenges are the best vehicle for the viewing public to hold network
broadcasters accountable for proper or improper stewardship of the
airwaves, church officials said.
come up for renewal once every eight years, and in the current cycle,
only stations in Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are under
United Church of Christ ad states that — "like Jesus" — the United
Church of Christ seeks to welcome all people, regardless of ability,
age, race, economic circumstance or sexual orientation. The ad has been
accepted and will air on a number of networks, including ABC Family,
AMC, BET, CNN, Discovery, Fox, Hallmark, History, Nick at Nite, TBS,
TNT, Travel and TV Land.
are granted licenses to use the airwaves, which are considered to be
owned by the public," said the Rev. Larry Hollon, top executive with
United Methodist Communications, the denomination’s communication
agency. "As a result, it has been required that broadcasters serve the
public interest. Today this principle is almost completely forgotten."
Communication Commission of the National Council of Churches USA called
the networks actions "arbitrary" and contrary to the principles of
freedom of speech and equal access to media. The NCC commission
published a list of religious communicators in support of the United
Church of Christ.
or not this spot is controversial is not for CBS and NBC to decide,"
said the Rev. Daniel R. Gangler, director of communication for the
United Methodist Church’s Indiana Area and a signer of the statement
supporting the ad. Nor is it for the networks to decide, "if the spot
fits FCC rulings, as to whether or not these announcements are fit for
airing on the public airwaves," he said.
UCC is expressing its opinion of openness in an inviting way and paying
to do so," Gangler said. "Two major networks curbing paid church
advertising sends a disturbing message to the religious communities of
Rev. John H. Thomas, United Church of Christ’s general minister and
president, said, "The religious, ethical and moral rights of members of
the UCC churches and other citizens to have access to diverse
programming has been harmed by the refusal of NBC and CBS to carry the
ad, as well as by their failure to carry programming reflecting the full
range of religious expression in the United States on their networks
and on their owned and operated stations."
UCC message is about inclusion, which should not be a matter of
controversy today," Hollon said. "To say the church is open to everyone
is a fundamental principle of Christian teaching. The church cannot say
less than this and be the church. God loves every one of God’s
creatures. If that is too controversial for broadcasters, then it’s as
if the Gospel is too prophetic for us to hear."
Hollon added that in today’s media-saturated society, "if you are not on the screen, it’s as if you don’t exist."
this case it is the voice of the church that is being denied a
hearing," he said. "This demonstrates why the church must stand with
those who are without voice. If not, we risk losing our own voice in the
public media as well."
United Methodist News Service is a unit of United Methodist Communications, based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.