Sunday afternoon, the Nose and the rest of the Super Bowl-watching globe learned what Viacom, the company that owns CBS, MTV, 39 TV stations, Blockbuster, 185 radio stations, Paramount Pictures and a few other holdings, found appropriate for a family audience (aside from Janet Jackson's unsanctioned flash of flesh):
* A mutt sinking his teeth into a guy's crotch so he gives up his Bud Light.
* The football referee who is able to take abuse from coaches on the field because they're nothing compared to his bitching wife at home.
* A geriatric codger yanking an old woman to the ground with his cane in order to nab her potato chips.
* Several kids with soap in their mouths after having seen the line of new Chevy's and been unable to restrain themselves from saying "Holy Shit."
* A standing steed that breaks wind on a girl as she holds a candle, torching her face.
And the commercial that Viacom's CBS decided was inappropriate for viewing?
A 30-second spot called "Child's Pay." It had no voiceover, just a montage of various kids doing a number of menial jobs: collecting garbage, washing dishes, vacuuming motel floors, checking groceries. At the end, the screen shows the following words: "Guess who's going to pay off President Bush's $1 trillion deficit?"
The Nose wants to believe CBS when it says that politics had nothing to do with its decision, that it just wanted to keep the Super Bowl free of controversy. In other words, like it or not, the Super Bowl is a celebration not just of athletic achievement, but of commerce--and that the paid 30-second spots should be reserved for shilling beer, cars, potato chips and, in the case of Wieden & Kennedy's remarkably stale AOL ads, faster Internet connectivity.
The organization that tried to give CBS $2.3 million to run "Child's Pay" believes there's a more venal motive behind the decision to nix the 30-second spot. MoveOn.org, founded by a couple of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, suggests that CBS was unwilling to air any commercial that might offend a president whose policies have been very kind to large media companies that want to get larger.
What's so offensive about pointing out the financial
burden of today's federal deficit and that our kids will be paying for it?
And if CBS wanted to reserve its Super Bowl time for pure commercial speech, why did it allow the American Legacy Foundation to buy time to air a delightfully clever parody of tobacco companies? (The spot featured a spokesman for Shards O' Glass Freeze Pops telling viewers, "Shards O' Glass Freeze Pops are for adults only.")
The Nose has to agree with Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden (one of the few members of Congress to even care about this matter), who challenged CBS's president in a letter sent last week: "How would you argue that excluding selected messages from perhaps the most watched broadcast program of the year...is consistent with your broadcast stations' public interest obligations as users of the public airwaves?"
If Karl Rove could find a way to unload the deficit onto Budweiser, the brewer would market its way out of this problem in no time--with CBS's help. Maybe they could even work in some appropriate horse farts.
To see the ad CBS wouldn't run, go to www.moveon.org/cbs/ad/