Ohio Issue 2 TV Ads Set Off Firestorm

By: Roger Sheppard
By: Roger Sheppard

Pulled TV ad results in avalanche of worthless e-mails

It’s been a while since I have done one of these editorials. But something happened recently that I need to share with you.

You may have heard about WTAP and some other TV stations refusing to run a particular TV ad for one side of the Ohio Issue 2 debate. Representatives of the other side of the issue presented evidence to us that showed some serious flaws in the ad. We looked it over, conferred with legal counsel, and decided the best course of action was to pull the ad and tell the group it needed to send us a different one if it wanted to be on the air.
This situation also arose during the recent campaign for Governor of West Virginia.
TV stations are not responsible for checking every ad for every product, service or candidate to make sure the facts are straight. That would be a full-time job and be too expensive to support.
But TV stations are responsible for taking challenges by candidates or issue groups seriously. The FCC says we must collect information from both sides to hear why each side believes as it does, and then make a decision about whether the ad can be supported by facts or not.
In the Ohio Issue 2 incident, one party had taken video and audio of a woman from the other party’s TV ad, and used her in its own ad, to try to convince voters that she held a different opinion than the one she espoused in the original ad. It made for a confusing mess. After being alerted to the problem, we researched it and told the sponsors we would not be running the ad, but they could submit another one.
Then, the e-mail heavens opened up.
I received at least  500 identical, poorly written e-mails from people all over Ohio – but not one from southeastern Ohio – attacking us for caving in to pressure from one organization or another in pulling this ad. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I enjoy receiving and responding to e-mails from folks who want to ask a question, or tell me (in their own words) why they dis-agree with something we have done. But this was a form e-mail, prepared by a lobbying group, that had all of its facts wrong.
If you have a bone to pick with WTAP or me, please share it. I’ll try to respond. But please do not be duped into joining a mass e-mailing campaign unless you are 100% certain that the facts are correct.
My experience has been, they seldom are.
That’s this week’s editorial.
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