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California and the West

Band's film ads hit sour note

Weinstein Co. says NBC and CW refuse to run commercials for Dixie Chicks documentary.

October 27, 2006|Richard Verrier | Times Staff Writer

A new documentary on the backlash against the Dixie Chicks after critical remarks the group's lead singer made about President Bush has brought disharmony between the film's distributor and two TV networks.

On Thursday, Weinstein Co. alleged that NBC and the CW had refused to air nationwide commercials to promote "Shut Up & Sing."

Weinstein said NBC wrote that the network "cannot accept these spots as they are disparaging to President Bush."

The CW also rejected the ads, Weinstein said, saying in a letter that it did "not have the appropriate programming in which to schedule this spot."

Harvey Weinstein, who runs the company with his brother, Bob, said the networks were stifling free speech.

"It's a sad commentary about the level of fear in our society that a movie about a group of courageous entertainers who were blacklisted for exercising their right of free speech is now itself being blacklisted by corporate America," he said.

NBC Universal spokeswoman Rebecca Marks declined to comment.

CW spokesman Paul McGuire denied that network executives refused to run the spot. He said Weinstein Co.'s ad agency inquired about running a spot, but chose not to.

"They weren't interested in running a national spot on the CW. What's in their press release is a mystery. It's inaccurate," McGuire said.

CBS and MTV Networks have agreed to run the ads nationwide, while local affiliates have been running the commercials in Los Angeles and New York.

The CW network airs on TV stations owned by CBS and Chicago-based Tribune Co., owner of the Los Angeles Times.

"Shut Up & Sing" debuts in theaters in Los Angeles and New York today, and nationwide Nov. 10. The film is directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck, daughter of the late Gregory Peck.

The 93-minute film chronicles the behind-the-scenes aftermath of controversial comments made during a London concert on the eve of the Iraq invasion in 2003 by singer Natalie Maines. She told the audience that she was ashamed that Bush was from her home state of Texas.

That brought a backlash from country fans, radio disc jockeys and some of the Dixie Chicks' peers. Some radio stations refused to play the group's records, with threats allegedly made against the three members.

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