If someone hates the war in Iraq, thinks that President Bush tells too many bad jokes, or that he shouldn't be riding mountain bikes with Lance Armstrong, you generally can't just run it in a TV commercial.
Advocacy commercials are precarious, because they only tell one side of the story. It could be inaccurate. Networks don't like to be put in this position because, as with any political position, you have to give time to the opposing side. However, networks and TV stations have no problem with a letter to the station manager or news director. Those will get heard because -- in theory -- they are supposed to air all points of view.
In January 2004, CBS refused a TV commercial from MoveOn.org to run during the Super Bowl that focused on the federal deficit it claimed the Bush administration created. Earlier that month, an ad from People for Ethical Treatment of Animals was also rejected by CBS.
The only time you can run a TV commercial about political issues is when it's connected to an election. Say the state of California puts a proposition on the ballot for a law against politicians telling jokes, then you can advertise your heart out.
Disgruntled relatives of soldiers who lost their lives in the Iraq war have a more serious issue. Calling themselves Gold Star Families for Peace they have produced an anti-war TV commercial that some stations have decided to air - including CBS, Fox, and NBC stations in Salt Lake City. The ad began airing last week. Bush is scheduled to speak this week in Salt Lake City to the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
But ABC-affiliate KTVX won't air the ad and calls it an "inappropriate commercial advertisement for Salt Lake City." One member of Gold Star Families for Peace was puzzled by the decision. "What stunned me was that it was inappropriate to hear this message," she said. "How is it that Salt Lake City should hear no questions about the war?"
No, it's not inappropriate to hear that message - just the wrong venue. If KTVX newscast does a good job, then everyone will take that side of the story. It's called journalism.
The Gold Star Families for Peace is advertising, not adding to editorial. And that's a big difference. If Gold Star Families wants to get their point across they should petition the KTVX news director to get the station to cover their group - in this case, setting up a camp outside the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas to protest the war.
It's not wrong to pay to get your point across on television; it's just wrong to demand that everyone do business with you. TV stations in this case have a right to their own freedom of speech - the speech that talks business.