Explaining Rejection of Free-Market Ad for Obama Primetime Special, ABC Says It Has Rejected Advocacy Ads 'Forever'

By Melanie Hunter-Omar | June 17, 2009 | 4:26 PM EDT

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the new comprehensive regulatory reform plan, Wednesday, June 17, 2009, in the East Room of the White House. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(CNSNews.com) – A spokesperson for ABC News said Wednesday that an alternative health care ad submitted for airing during the network’s upcoming primetime special, “Prescription for America,” was rejected because the network does not accept “advocacy advertising.”
“The ABC Television network has a long-standing policy that we do not accept advocacy advertising. It’s just something that has been in place forever,” Emily Lenzner, spokesperson for ABC News, told CNSNews.com.
On June 24, ABC will present a primetime town-hall style show on health care from the East Room of the White House. The show will feature President Obama explaining his plans for reforming the nation's health care system.  The program sparked controversy earlier, and a complaint from the Republican National Committee, because ABC is not featuring any Republicans on the program to balance the president's point of view.
Rick Scott, chairman of Conservatives for Patients Rights, submitted an ad to ABC that offers a free-market alternative to President Obama’s $1 trillion plus health care reform plan, but the ad was rejected.

“It is unfortunate--and unusual--that ABC is refusing to accept paid advertising that would present an alternative viewpoint for the White House health care event.  Health care is an issue that touches every American and all potential pieces of legislation have carried a pricetag in excess of $1 trillion of taxpayers’ money,” Scott said in a statement. 
“The American people deserve a healthy, robust debate on this issue and ABC’s decision--as of now--to exclude even paid advertisements that present an alternative view does a disservice to the public,” he said.

“Our organization is more than willing to purchase ad time on ABC to present an alternative viewpoint and our hope is that ABC will reconsider having such viewpoints be part of this crucial debate for the American people,” Scott added.
“We were surprised to hear that paid advertisements would not be accepted when we inquired and we would certainly be open to purchasing time if ABC would reconsider,” Scott concluded.

Keith Appell, a spokesman for Conservatives for Patients' Rights, responded specifically to ABC's claim that it will not air the group's ad because it has rejected advocacy ads "forever."

“Given that ABC is not providing a clear and distinct opportunity for an alternate viewpoint in a paid infomercial for the president’s government-run health care plan, it should at least provide opportunity for a paid alternative viewpoint,” said Appell.

“Given the importance and the scope of health-care reform, how can ABC allow just one side to be presented in a news format?” said Appell. “When Bill Clinton pitched his health-care plan in a speech before Congress, ABC aired the Republican response. Now ABC won’t even air a paid alternative viewpoint.”