Those of you who know me know that I hate censorship in most forms that it takes. I think that free speech is an important part of a free society. While Government censorship is perhaps the worst kind (and certainly folks living in places like China have it a lot worse than we do) I really hate all censorship. The worst censors though, I think, are the ones that employ censorship to censor political speech. So I was especially disappointed to read yesterday about several Bay Area and Los Angeles based TV news outlets refusing to sell air time for a 30 second commercial about the marijuana legalization debate. While I personally support the legalization of marijuana and the tax revenues that such an initiative might bring, I don’t think that is really the issue here. I’d be just as offended if these same media outlets refused to sell advertisement time to opponents of the legalization of marijuana.
Although the media are private companies and are not legally required to remain uncensored, I think it’s very bad form when they actively engage in censorship, especially censorship of this type. I think that when a media outlet is granted the privilege in our society of controlling a large chunk of public attention that they owe it to us all to remain politically neutral when it comes to paid advertisements. The ad that was rejected can be seen above. I’d encourage you to check it out, fave it on YouTube and share it with other people on your blog, on places like Twitter and Friendfeed and in other public forums. The ad is not offensive. It’s an honest attempt by a political organization to present an opinion that now is the time for California to consider legalizing marijuana.
Despite this honest attempt at public discourse though, the media outlets named in the headline of this post, KGO and KNTV in the Bay Area and KABC, KTLA and KTTV (Fox) in Los Angeles have refused the ad above. Interestingly enough several other media outlets including CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, KPIX, KXTV, and KRON are currently running the ad.
Anthony Citrano has also written an insightful post over at The Huffington Post where he give more details about this unfortunate act of media censorship.