UPDATE, 5:35 PM: NBCUniversal released the following statement to Planned Parenthood Action Fund, reiterating it did not turn down an Obvious Child ad for broadcast but acknowledging it did ask the media buyer to remove the word in a digital ad, which NBCU says was a mistake. Planned Parenthood, which by then had collected about 13,000 signatures on its petition telling NBC to knock off the rannygazoo, declared it a major victory, calling it “a huge step forward in the work towards more honesty about women and abortion in TV and movies.” Here is NBC’s most recent statement:
“NBCUniversal has no policy against accepting ads that include the word “abortion.” Several ad proposals for Obvious Child were submitted to our television broadcast standards group for review, and, consistent with NBCUniversal policy and practice, no direction was given to remove references to the word “abortion.” Ultimately, no final ad was submitted or purchased for television broadcast.
“Separately, an online ad was submitted for digital placement and feedback was mistakenly given to remove the word “abortion.” That is not company policy and we are currently reviewing our ad standards processes to ensure they are consistent across all platforms moving forward.
“Our digital platforms will accept the ad as it was originally submitted.”
PREVIOUS: Planned Parenthood says it has 11,000 signatures on a petition chastising NBC for what the health-care group says are reports that the network refused to run an ad for the indie film Obvious Child because it includes the word “abortion.” Written and directed by Gillian Robespierre, the movie stars Jenny Slate as a comedian who gets dumped, fired and pregnant just in time for the most chaotic Valentine’s Day of her life, and decides to terminate her pregnancy.
Planned Parenthood is basing its petition on a New York Post Page Six item that was subsequently picked up by other media, including one outlet that also reported NBC has a problem with the word “abortion” in general, having bleeped it out of a performance by Dana Eagle on its primetime series Last Comic Standing. But after Eagle tweeted that what she’d said was, ”I like my friends kids, I do but then there’s always those one or two where you’re like: ‘That one should have been a hummer,” and NBC directed the blogger to its online un-bleeped version of the episode, the website backed off.
An informed source says a media buyer did approach NBC about running an ad for Obvious Child on its air, on behalf of the movie’s distributor. NBC has issued a statement saying, “No final spots were submitted to NBC broadcast standards for on-air consideration and NBC Broadcast Advertising Sales was never contacted about a media buy on NBC for spots related to this movie. Moreover, initial feedback from our broadcast standards group did not include any suggestion to remove a specific word.” Contacted for comment, A24, which acquired the movie at Sundance back in January, responded, that it’s not commenting.
“It’s outrageous that a major network would choose to censor mentions about abortion,” Planned Parenthood said in its petition. The group added — with the important “if” qualifier — “If NBC, is censoring the use of the word abortion, then the network is refusing to even take part in a conversation, let alone an honest one that accurately reflects women’s lives.”
These recent artistic moldings of the clay of truth do not mark the first time NBC has engaged in conversation with Planned Parenthood over the abortion issue. Just last year Planned Parenthood praised NBC for taking part in the conversation, in an episode of its drama series Parenthood that featured a Planned Parenthood center. The group “bragged in tweets it was being featured in the show,” snarked Live Action News, which is put out by the anti-abortion group Live Action. That group blasted the Parenthood episode as being “obviously endorsed by Planned Parenthood itself” and “more like a giant advertisement for the abortion provider than it was an entertainment show. What is shameful is that a network TV show would use its prized airtime to create a glorified commercial for teens to have an abortion without parental consent.”
Back then, interestingly, the New York Post raised its eyebrows so high they rearranged their bangs, over NBC’s decision to air the episode, with the headline “Parenthood Did What Few Have Tried – Make Abortion Seem Nearly Normal.” (Abortion has been a hot-button topic on TV ever since 1972, when Bea Arthur’s Maude decided to terminate her unexpected pregnancy on Norman Lear’s ground-breaking CBS comedy of same name). In that article, exec producer Jason Katims is quoted saying the network fully backed the episode in which high schooler Amy (Skyler Day) terminated her pregnancy. NBC said it was “going to support us to tell this story because they felt we would tell it in a way that was not politicized,” he told the NY Post.
“They wanted to make sure that we were responsible in terms of the facts and how we told the story. But they did not ever suggest that we don’t do it,” Katims is quoted as saying in the article, in which the Post describes Live Action as a “human rights group.”
“NBC and the producers of Parenthood have sold themselves out as entertainment and become part of the Planned Parenthood propaganda sweeping the nation,” Live Action complained back then.