Political TV advertising can be a hornet’s nest of fact and fiction.
This comes with the territory; viewers always take messaging with a grain of salt. Or maybe a shaker. However, in an age of increasingly partisan TV news programming, viewers' input can take on a different value for TV executives as they make advertising decisions.
Fox News Channel, MSNBC and others had been running a commercial from California billionaire Tom Steyer that implored viewers to urge their Congressional representatives to push for impeachment of President Donald Trump.
Now Fox News Channel has stopped those commercials. Why? It’s not about any TV network standards with regard to a content issue. It’s about Fox News viewers' reactions.
Jack Abernethy, co-president of Fox News Group, issued this response: "Due to the strong negative reaction to their ad by our viewers, we could not in good conscience take their money."
In response, lawyers for Steyer accused Fox News of breaching a contractual agreement to air the commercial. Steyer’s $11 million campaign has also run on Fox-owned local TV stations and other TV networks. Fox News Channel made the decision to stop the ad on October 31.
Political advertising is different from selling shampoo. Laws protecting consumers from false advertising of consumer products are heavily enforced. TV stations can reject ads for any reason from political groups -- but not political candidates.
Cable TV networks have no restrictions on political advertising. So do TV executives need to take a closer look here, especially concerning future TV brand appreciation?
The confusing part is that Fox News Channel had been running the spot for a week, and then it was cancelled. Add in this wrinkle: The commercial still airs on some Fox TV stations, according to reports.
For many, it is no surprise that one of the Fox News Channel shows where the commercial had been airing was “Fox & Friends” -- the early show that President Trump reportedly watches daily.
We understand. TV friends can be hard to come by. News programming needs all they can get.