Regardless of how you feel about the same-sex marriage issue, Time Warner’s decision to give proponents of SSM free air time (hilariously couched as a “mistake” by Time Warner execs) during the recent SSM battle in New York ought to be appalling. Apparently, the Human Rights Campaign – a group that exists for the express purpose of lobbying for the gay community – put together a series of ads featuring prominent celebrities expressing their support for same-sex marriage. The ad campaign was part of their “New Yorkers for Marriage Equality” push during the middle of the legislative fight in New York over same-sex marriage. Despite all this, Time Warner Cable somehow considered these commercials to be “public service announcements” rather than lobbying, and allowed the commercials to run completely free of charge.
But initially, Time Warner considered the ads to be public service announcements, according to Susan Leepson, a regional vice president for communications at the company.
“Then, with the upcoming vote, we took a hard look and realized that HRC decided to declare them as lobbying,” she explained.
Time Warner Cable has “not taken any position on that issue,” Leepson said, and both she and spokesman Bobby Amirshahi suggested they were classified as public service announcements by mistake. PSAs are run free of charge by broadcast networks and promote a variety of non-controversial social causes such as child abuse prevention.
Leepson and Amirshahi also said TWC initially sought money from HRC to cover the fair market value of the airtime, but HRC was disinclined to pay.
No reasonable person would assume that this was actually a mistake. Even the most dimwitted and politically unaware person in the universe would have recognized these ads for exactly what they were at a first glance. And then TW’s decision to declare it a “mistake” and halfheartedly attempt to collect from HRC is one of the lamest CYA moves I have ever seen. Look at one of the ads yourself and see whether it is even within the realm of possibility that this was an honest mistake:
One wonders whether such a mistake would ever be made if the Club for Growth produced a series of commercials starring Adam Baldwin pushing for the passage of the Balanced Budget Amendment in New York – even though such a commercial actually would arguably constitute a public service (but only if one believes that the public is served by the good credit rating of the United States government). Of course, the question answers itself.
Time Warner cable clearly used their government-granted monopoly to push a given viewpoint in the midst of a hotly contested political campaign, and it is nearly certain that they will face no penalty from the New York Legislature from doing so. This is not just alarming to conservatives, it’s alarming to democracy. When the sitting government works hand in hand with the media to push the government’s preferred position, that is a defining characteristic of a society that is inching towards totalitarianism.