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Gay Ad Meets With Resistance From ABC

March 21, 1997|BRIAN LOWRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A gay rights group will advertise against anti-gay job discrimination during the April 30 episode of ABC's "Ellen," in which the lead character will say she's a lesbian.

However, the network declined to run the ad on a national basis, citing a policy against carrying "controversial issue advertising."

As a result, the Human Rights Campaign--a Washington-based gay and lesbian political association--will place the commercial on individual ABC stations in 29 major cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco.

According to the group, seven ABC outlets--including the network-owned stations in New York, Chicago and Philadelphia, three of the nation's top 10 television markets--declined to run the ad. A total of 59 said they would be willing to carry it.

It is not unusual for networks to turn down certain ads because of content. The group expressed disappointment regarding the decision, but in a statement also lauded Disney and ABC as "model corporate citizens when it comes to treating their gay and lesbian employees fairly."

The commercial deals with an employee fired because of her sexual orientation, referring viewers to a toll-free number. Buying time individually in the 29 cities will cost in excess of $175,000--a less efficient method of reaching viewers, the gay rights group pointed out, than a single national spot.

The organization commissioned the ad specifically for this episode, tapping into perceived interest in the show, where the character played by Ellen DeGeneres will announce to friends and family that she's a lesbian. Disney Television, which produces "Ellen," has lined up such high-profile guest stars as Oprah Winfrey, Demi Moore, Laura Dern and k.d. lang to appear.

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