Is the nation’s most powerful media empire taking a political stance against the Second Amendment? The National Rifle Association and Comcast went at it this week after the cable conglomerate rejected two advertisements promoting the NRA’s Great American Outdoor Show in Pennsylvania.
“Both ads submitted yesterday entitled, (Family & Exhibit) will need to remove any and all images of rifles, shooting ranges, and handguns, when this is complete our MCC department and legal department will evaluate for approval,” Comcast said in a letter to the NRA. “The good news is there are just some small tweaks that need to happen in order to run the schedules in all the markets we have set up for the Great American Outdoor Show.”
The NRA balked at the proposed edits.
“Any way you cut it, the shooting sports are a significant part of the show. Why shouldn’t we be allowed to advertise for one of the Great American Outdoor Show’s main areas?” said NRA spokesman Kyle Jillson. “We designed an ad campaign to depict the events, activities, and sights people could expect to see at the Great American Outdoor Show. To remove a crucial aspect of the show from our ads would be a major disservice to people who may be interested in attending. We do not have plans to alter the ads at this time.”
After the story broke in the Washington Examiner, Comcast changed its tune. Their advertising division said the images of firearms weren’t the problem after all. “We don’t accept ads with children holding guns,” said a company spokesman.
The NRA appears pleased with Comcast’s new position. “We will now make the requested change so that both ads may air,” said Jillson.
It can hardly escape notice that it took public pressure to lead Comcast to their ultimate decision. Nothing in the original letter said anything about children and guns, and it’s unlikely that Comcast has a specific policy prohibiting ads with those images. This was a retreat, nothing more.
Furthermore, the ads show children shooting air rifles. What’s next? Will TBS stop airing A Christmas Story on account of the movie’s infamous Red Ryder BB gun? These cable companies obviously have discretion over their programming decisions, but this kind of censorship brings some thorny First Amendment concerns to light. Comcast isn’t the federal government, but when you control vast swaths of the media, you must be held to the utmost standards of free expression. As these companies grow both in size and influence, it will be up to the American people to make sure our rights are not trampled by corporate tyranny.