Fear shouldn’t dictate airing TV commercials

Freedom Newspapers

Television’s infancy in the 1950s was a period when advertisers were given veto power over the content of shows their ads were paying for.

The Fox television network’s yanking of GoDaddy.com’s commercial from a planned second airing during Sunday’s Super Bowl — after it had already been shown in the first quarter — is an example of the opposite situation. Here, an advertiser was told the stars of the show didn’t like the content of his material.

National Football League spokesman Brian McCarthy confirmed Monday what GoDaddy.com’s founder, Bob Parsons, said in a Web log earlier that day: That after it first aired, the NFL told Fox it found the 30-second ad inappropriate. Fox agreed, then replaced the ad with a promo for the upcoming episode of “The Simpsons.”

What was so inappropriate? The ad featured a mock government “censorship” hearing with an attractive young woman in jeans and a bare-midriff top with thin straps at the witness table. One of her straps purposely snapped, although she remained clothed throughout, in a clear parody of last year’s “wardrobe malfunction,” when Janet Jackson’s breast was briefly bared during the Super Bowl halftime show.

Certainly the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders bare more on TV than the woman in the ad did.

Fox and the NFL were less indignant about any supposed sexual content than they were about the ad’s topic, government regulation of speech, which became an issue after the Jackson incident.

Fox’s midgame, no-huddle decision Sunday was born more of fear than of rational thinking. Fear of what the government might do shouldn’t govern broadcasters’ decisions of what to show. Instead, they should employ balanced approaches involving both tolerance for controversial speech and restraint about offensive content.

GoDaddy.com’s ad was not offensive.