January 12, 2006
The ad has already served its purpose

The next best thing to having an advertisement run on TV is having its cancellation by scaredy-cat station managers turn into a news story, especially one that may last multiple days. Heck, if the stations refund your money for not running the ad, you may come out ahead this way.

Liberal groups Public Campaign Action Fund and Campaign for America's Future bought a week's worth of time slots for a commercial highlighting ethical questions about DeLay's close dealings with lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who pleaded guilty to corruption charges last week and is cooperating with a federal investigation of his contacts with congressmen and their aides.

DeLay has denied wrongdoing and has not been charged with any crime in connection with the case.

DeLay attorney Don McGahn implied in a letter Tuesday that the stations would be legally responsible for airing falsehoods about DeLay if the ads ran as scheduled.

KTRK (Channel 13) decided Tuesday to withhold the ad. KPRC (Channel 2), KHOU (Channel 11) and KRIV (Channel 26), which provide local news programming, decided Wednesday against starting the commercials that day.

McGahn's letter served to "alert me that there may be inconsistencies in the ad," said KHOU President and General Manager Peter Diaz, but he would not specify what elements of the ad were inconsistent.

The other stations declined to discuss their decisions.


Dallas attorney Joe Chumlea, who has handled several libel and defamation cases, said McGahn likely would not have had a strong legal case against stations running the ad because the Supreme Court provides broadcasters with the highest level of protection when it comes to political ads.

Broadcasters can only be liable for damages if they air something that they know is false or recklessly ignore the fact that it could be, he said, but someone such as McGahn telling a broadcaster that an ad is false doesn't meet the standard.

Cowards. You can see the ad here. As Kos and the story both note, it's already run on cable stations locally. Will McGahn follow through with his lawsuit against them, or was that all a bluff? Maybe if a station would stand up to this kind of bullying, and saw a couple of these suits dismissed on summary judgments, these empty threats would be made less often. If not, there's always the old-fashioned method of calling them up and asking them why they folded. Sean-Paul and PinkDome have contact info for you.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 12, 2006 to Scandalized! | TrackBack

Let's not forget that KPRC-2 is owned by Post-Newsweek, that KTRK-13 is owned by ABC, and that KRIV-26 is owned by Fox. I don't know what excuse KHOU-11 (Texas-owned) uses, but I'm suspecting that the first three are subject to political influence.

I am so old that I remember when Texas TV stations were owned by Texans.

Posted by: Brenda Helverson on January 12, 2006 6:59 PM

DeLay attorney Don McGahn implied in a letter Tuesday that the stations would be legally responsible for airing falsehoods about DeLay if the ads ran as scheduled.

The station's lawyers are presumably familiar with New York Times v. Sullivan and consequently know that's bulls---. But it does provide them a convenient excuse to pull the ads. Even without his Majority Leader title, DeLay presumably has enough clout to scare the bigwigs.

Posted by: Mathwiz on January 13, 2006 10:04 AM