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"See the ad Fox won't run"

It's a time-honored publicity technique: prepare an ad likely to be rejected by media outlets, and when they turn you down, complain to the press that you're being denied a fair hearing. A trial-lawyer-allied group called US Action is playing this game at the moment. It prepared a broadcast ad supportive of med-mal lawsuits, and critical of those who would limit such suits, and sent it to the networks. NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox all turned it down, saying it violated their broadcast standards for controversial issue advertising; only cable-based CNN agreed to run it. Before long the New York Times ran a story about the denial, an undeniable publicity coup for US Action. And the organization has followed up with a seemingly ubiquitous blog ad campaign (we've seen it on InstaPundit, Nathan Newman's Labor Blog, Virginia Postrel, Tapped, Ernie the Attorney, etc., etc.) inviting readers to view the must-be-hot-stuff taboo ad. So far, so familiar; that's how the publicity game is played in these cases.

But the ad campaign does something sneaky and misleading. It entirely omits mentioning the three older networks, instead leaving readers with the impression that Rupert Murdoch's Fox News management is the primary obstacle keeping viewers from seeing the ad on air. In fact in a mere 38 words the ad manages to pack in four references to Fox News, three by name and one to the network's motto ("We report. You decide.").

Maybe the small space of the blog ad just couldn't accommodate the extra few characters needed to replace "the ad FOX won't run" with "the ad the broadcast networks won't run". Or maybe the devisers of the ad knew that their cause wouldn't seem as sympathetic if readers knew that CBS, ABC and NBC agreed with Fox in ruling the spot off bounds. Or maybe they knew a certain portion of readers who instinctively assume the worst of Fox would be more likely to click on the ad at the tingly thought of catching Rupert's minions misbehaving. Any of these are possibilities: we report, you decide. P.S. Brett Marston thinks he saw the ad on Fox's local affiliate in D.C.



Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Katherine Lazarski
Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.