BY ALICIA MUNDY When Comcast rejected an antiwar ad last week from a Princeton, N.J.-based church-related peace group, it created a PR mess and started another round of complaints in Washington about the effects of big media mergers. The ad from the AntiWar Video Fund and the Coalition for Peace Action was rejected by Comcast the morning of Jan. 28. It was supposed to run that evening on CNN in the Washington, D.C., market before and after the State of the Union address. Andrew Schwartzman, director of the Media Access Project, said it was Comcast’s right to look at the validity of statements in an issue ad. However, noting Comcast’s control of most of the Washington market, he said, “If there was any animus involved on Comcast’s part, it will be a large problem in the future, because they are a growing monopoly.” The 30-second “War and Peace” is a low-tech commercial featuring a series of Princeton residents’ quotes, such as “This war against Iraq is the most irrational thing I can imagine.” Media buyer Brian Sloman of Spectrum Marketing Group bought two slots for the ad on three consecutive nights starting Jan. 28 for $5,000. He told Cable World that he spoke with Comcast ad reps repeatedly the week of Jan. 20. “I told them it was an antiwar ad. Most importantly, I told them they could view the ad and text on the group’s website first.” Sloman said Comcast told him to mail it to them for “standards” review. He said he was finally given the mailing address Jan. 24 and Comcast received it Jan. 25. Comcast told Sloman Jan. 28 their legal department had a problem with a line uttered by the former mayor of Princeton Township, referring to the president’s team as a “group of mercenaries.” However, Sloman said, Comcast did not, as is customary with political and issues ads, allow him to edit the ad so it could air. Sloman said after repeated calls, he was formally offered a chance to edit the ad Jan. 30, two days after the State of the Union address. Comcast initially issued a press statement saying they couldn’t “substantiate” claims made in the ad, but didn’t identify the problem. A spokesperson said that they reviewed the ad “as expeditiously as possible” and that they were not deliberately trying to hold the ad back the night of the State of the Union address. Rev. Robert Moore of the United Church of Christ, which supported the ad effort, said, “Would Comcast do this when someone places an ad for toothpaste? Do they question the statement it makes teeth whiter than white?” The Group has decided not to edit the ad at this late date. Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy said, “Comcast’s action underscores the problem we have in the United States because of media consolidation.”

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