Tuesday, March 04, 2008

AdBusters Trashed by Canadian Broadcasters

All they wanted was to be able to buy airtime to express their concerns - 30 seconds here, 30 seconds there. They wanted to speak to the Canadian people in the same forum that McCain uses to flog its crappy frozen pizzas. Canada's television broadcasters - the outfits who get licensed to use the public (your and my) airwaves said "no." So AdBusters took them to court - and lost.

The AdBusters press release explains it this way:

"It's outrageous that the fast food, oil and automobile industries can buy as much TV time as they want in order to promote their agendas, but citizens are not allowed to talk back," said Adbusters Editor-in-Chief Kalle Lasn in response to the ruling. "Canadian democracy will not work properly until we the people have the same right to buy airtime as corporations do."

The rejected Adbusters ads pointed out that over 50 percent of the calories in a Big Mac come from fat, called for an end to the age of the automobile, and promoted Buy Nothing Day. While Court Justice William Ehrcke ruled that private broadcasters have the right to run whatever ads they like, Adbusters feels the case raises some troubling questions."

Outrageous? Actually I think they're right. Unless there's something offensive, dishonest or inciteful in an advertisement or public service message, why should a television network - using our public property - be allowed to refuse to run it provided they're paid the standard rate for their (our) airtime?

If McDonald's is vulnerable to an ad pointing out, truthfully, that half the calories in a Big Mac come from fat, why should a paying customer be refused the opportunity to express that point?

In our progressively dumbed down society, television is becoming the media for communication, most of it programmed to the lowest common denominator. Still, that is where you have to go if you want to reach the populace and the folks who spew out the Big Macs and Cadillac Escalades know it. Should they be able to use their advertising clout to monopolize one of the most important forms of public property, the airwaves? If so, why?


Anonymous said...

Buy nothing day actually hurts the minimum wage employees of big companies more than the big companies themselves, but don't try to reason with the puritaniancal postmodernists at adbusters

The Mound of Sound said...

Thanks Bag but I thought the obvious focus of the piece was about broadcasters with exclusive access to public airwaves denying inconvenient sources the opportunity to purchase their advertising airtime. I failed to get the obvious point across. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

You got the point across, I was just commenting on a particular thing. Anyway, I agree with the judge, the private broadcasters have a right to air whatever they want, and forcing them to air a particular commercial from another private group would be much more negative that the private broadcasters denying adbusters.

The Mound of Sound said...

Thanks LB. Fair enough, but is there a line and where is it to be drawn? The airwaves are public property. We put them up for bidding to private broadcasters for finite terms, require applicants to make "promises of performance" as to what they'll do with them (news coverage, community access, etc.), and rescind them when they cross unacceptable lines.. or at least so the story goes. So, how does that square with letting them shut out social activism?
Appreciate your thoughts.