AdWeek reports that Comcast, which is purchasing the rest of NBC Universal, will begin using that company’s rules for advertising across its whole enterprise. And that includes a ban on firearms advertisements:
In a statement, Comcast said it decided this month it would adopt the advertising guidelines used by NBCUniversal, which will not accept ads for weapons or fireworks. (Last week, the cable giant announced it would acquire the 49 percent of NBCU it didn’t own for $16.7 billion.) NBC’s ad policy, last updated in June 2012, reads: “NBC does not accept advertisements for weapons or fireworks. Commercials that include weapons or fireworks as props will be approved on a case-by-case basis.” News of the policy change was reported by the local ABC affiliate in Flint, Mich. Williams Gun Sight Co. was outraged that its 30-second spot could no longer run on cable. A Comcast spokesperson didn’t know how long the NBC policy banning ads for firearms and weapons had been in place at NBC. “It’s a long-standing policy,” the spokesman said.
Voluntary restrictions on gun ads are relatively common in the wake of gun violence. In 1999, President Clinton asked representatives of the entertainment industry to eliminate advertising that included images of guns and gun violence. In 2003, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune decided it would only accept for ads that were antiques or collectibles after a man murdered his wife with a weapon that he purchased from the Guns & Rifles section of the classifieds. And this January, ESPN refused to renew an advertising contract with East Coast Guns on the grounds that its advertising criteria had changed to exclude ads that featured hand guns and ammunition for those weapons.
Comcast’s decision seems more likely to be the product of standardizing corporate practices as part of the acquisition than a direct response to the Newtown massacre. It would be a public relations problem for the company for a sales representative operating under one set of standards to accept an advertisement that local affiliates are unable to run. But it’s also probably a good call for the company given the current environment. I’ve said this before, but I think one of the most reasonable steps the entertainment industry could take in response to concerns about the impact of violent media would be to align the ratings of products that are being advertised with the ratings of the products they’re being advertised during. It would be labor-intensive to place ads that way. But making sure that viewers who have turned into general-interest or all-ages programming aren’t surprised by images of graphic violence would at least help consumers make viewing choices, even if it wouldn’t address the concerns of people who are worried about the desensitizing impacts of media violence.