Agenda Project: KWWL Rejects Political Ad

According to the Agenda Project Action Fund, KWWL-TV Waterloo, Iowa, has declined to air the organization's latest ad claiming that Republican-backed cuts to the CDC, NIH and USAID contributed to the recent Ebola "outbreak" in the U.S. It is a new variant on the "Republican Cuts Kill" ad the group launched last week, this one targeting Iowa Republican senatorial candidate Joni Ernst.

According to the group, which says it has successfully placed the ad on a couple of Iowa TV stations, KWWL-TV cited the graphic images of dead bodies—one has blood running from its mouth and ear—for rejecting the ad.

KWWL-TV General Manager Jim McKernan confirms the station chose not to run the two spots because of graphic images of Ebola victims at the end of the spot, though he said they would have run them if the group had agreed to excise those images. "We would hav aired the ad," he told B&C, "but we had some issues with the graphic images depicted in the latter part of the ad and told them we would not run the ad with those images. It wasn't any issue we raised with the content other than those graphic images. When you freeze on it and look at the images, with bleeding from the nose and the ears, there were a couple of images we were not comfortable with, and that is the decision we made."

"Pictures of Ebola victims are tragic - the cuts that led to them are what's offensive," said Producer of 'Republican Cuts Kill' and president of the Agenda Project Action Fund, Erica Payne in a statement on the station's decision.  "Iowans deserve to know exactly what Joni Ernst wants to cut before they put her in the US Senate."

TV stations have to make airtime available for political ads. They have to take candidate ads, so they have no liability for the content. But because the same requirement and liability immunity does not apply to third-party ads, like the ad from Agenda Project Action Fund, a station can choose not to run them based on content.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.