Young people tend to watch a lot of MTV. Political activists tend to spend a lot of time trying to connect with young people. It would seem only natural that buying ads on MTV and its sister channels would be a great way to reach young people with a political message.
But there's a roadblock. On Viacom's MTV Networks, which owns MTV, VH1 and Comedy Central -- all popular with younger viewers -- no issue advocacy ads are allowed; some channels do allow advertising directly from candidates.
Now the spurned political activists are fighting back. A coalition of 13 advocacy groups yesterday announced the creation of Let US Decide, devoted to pressuring Viacom into changing its policy. The group's organizers said they are launching a petition drive, and have set up a toll-free hotline, in which calls will be transferred to the executive suite of Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone.
The group was born out of the experience of Compare Decide Vote, an independent liberal group that is encouraging young people to vote. The group said it had an ad accepted on Comedy Central last month, only to be rejected two days later when the network cited a policy of not taking ads from such political groups. Lisa Seitz Gruwell, director of Compare Decide Vote, accused Viacom of a "double-standard," since Redstone has prominently backed President Bush and other Republicans, but does not make some of the company's most popular shows open to ads "providing simple information about candidates' positions."
An official with MTV Networks said that public affairs issues are regularly raised through programming, but the company has a long-standing policy of turning down advocacy advertising.
Campuses and Campaigns
Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.), a three-term lawmaker who is facing a tough reelection fight, admitted yesterday that he was once disciplined for what he called "inexcusable behavior" toward an ex-girlfriend.
His admission followed a report in the Oregonian that described how, in 1976, when Wu was a 21-year-old college student, he was accused by an ex-girlfriend of trying to force her to have sex. The woman declined to press criminal charges or file a formal complaint with Stanford University, the paper reported. But it said the school "de-selected" Wu for a job in a dorm.
"I take full responsibility for my actions and I am very sorry," Wu said in a statement. "I was disciplined by Stanford University for my behavior, and I worked with a counselor."
This wasn't the only House race roiled this week by an incident from a candidate's college days, although it was surely more serious. Rep. Martin Frost (D-Tex.), who is in a hotly contested race against Rep. Pete Sessions (R), has seized on decades-old news reports that his rival did a little streaking when he was a student.
"Pete Sessions exposed himself to children and strangers," Frost's spokesman told the Associated Press, noting that Sessions was among those who condemned Janet Jackson's R-rated show at the Super Bowl. "He's exposed himself as a hypocrite as well."
"Congressman Sessions' old school days are long gone," responded spokesman Chris Homan, according to the AP. "He recognizes it as an immature action of an 18-year-old college freshman."
Political researcher Brian Faler contributed to this report.