Columns » Hightower

Let's allow free speech, but only for corporations




The big brand-name corporations love advertising. They love it so much, they spend some $150 billion a year in our country to put all sorts of slickem and hokum on their products, and on their own public image.

But there is one kind of advertising that these same self-aggrandizing outfits despise: ads that challenge their carefully crafted images.

A nonprofit doctors group recently got a blast of corporate wrath when it produced a TV commercial that dared to take on mighty McDonald's. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine was challenging the fast-food behemoth to offer some menu choices healthier than its artery-clogging burgers.

The ad was a hoot. It featured the body of a deceased fat man laying on a cold slab at the morgue. He had a half-eaten burger in his hand, and McDonald's golden arch logo was superimposed over his deathly white feet. Then, an epitaph for the burger-wolfing dead man appeared on the screen, declaring: "I was lovin' it."

But when the doctors sought to buy airtime on South Florida television stations — none of them loved it. They showed no sense of humor ... and no sense of free speech. FOX, NBC, ABC, CBS and others flat out refused to air the ad. One station initially OKed it, but then weaseled out by saying the commercial could run only if all references to McDonald's were removed.

It seems that the stations were afraid of being sued by the burger giant, or they were afraid that McDonald's would pull its advertising from them. Indeed, corporate headquarters sent a sharp shot across the bow of the stations, declaring that, "This commercial is outrageous, misleading and unfair to all consumers."

Unfair to consumers? Most consumers would like to see the public airwaves opened up to the public, not just to big-money corporations.

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