'Obama's America' Producer: TNT Refusing to Air Ad Because of Campaign Law (Exclusive)

The cable network has agreed to play a 30-second spot for the documentary but has rejected a 60-second promo.

A week after CNN rejected a TV ad for 2016: Obama’s America, its sister network TNT has done likewise, refusing to air an ad and citing as its reason a host of  “sponsorship identification” rules that apply to political advertising but not usually to commercials for movies.

Filmmakers for Obama's America said that TNT has refused to run a 60-second ad for the movie but is running a 30-second spot, though only for two days until more stringent election laws kick in 60 days ahead of the presidential election. A week ago, CNN refused the same 30-second ad on similar grounds, though it approved of the ad the second time it was submitted by the filmmakers.

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The issue is focused on laws that require commercials for political campaigns to contain language identifying the origin of the ad. While the ad in question is not a campaign ad, Turner has taken the position that it is so similar to one that it must adhere to the rules governing them.

In an email sent to the filmmakers defending its decision (the email was provided by the filmmakers to THR), an executive at Turner, TNT’s parent, cited the Federal Election Campaign Act, Federal Election Commission rules and the 17th Edition of the NAB Political Broadcast Catechism.

The filmmakers presented TNT with two spots, one 60 seconds long and one 30 seconds long. The longer one was rejected outright and the shorter one TNT said can run, though not within 60 days of November’s presidential election, meaning it cannot run beyond Thursday.

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“The :60 spot presented to the Turner networks included statements many would interpret as critical of Obama, such as Obama’s dream that ‘America be downsized’ and ‘the sins of colonialism be set right’,” Turner Broadcasting System assistant general counsel Rick McMurty told the filmmakers on Wednesday.

The controversial 60-second ad is above.

“The ad then juxtaposes Obama’s dream with America’s dream that ‘America must grow so liberty grows,’ then asks, ‘Which dream will we carry into 2016?’  Based upon these references to Obama’s dream and raising the question as to whether Americans wish to carry that dream into the next term of the presidency, we have interpreted the ad as one that advocates for the defeat of a federal candidate and therefore subject" to various sponsorship identification requirements, McMurty told the filmmakers.

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John Sullivan, one of the film’s producers, said the same 60-second spot that TNT is rejecting has already run on MSNBC and the Fox News Channel, and the 30-second spot has run on those plus CNN and a half-dozen other cable networks.

“TNT is being the most staunch. When we pushed back at CNN, they eventually understood that it was an ad for a commercial venture and they allowed it to go on,” Sullivan said. “It’s no different than ads for Fahrenheit 9/11 or Sicko. They may be political in nature, but they are not electioneering.”

Late wednesday, a TNT spokeswoman said the network was reconsidering its decision not to run the 30-second spot beyond Thursday.
"We're currently reviewing the spot against our standards for political advertising and will make a determination," she said. 

Email: Paul.Bond@thr.com