The national airwaves, which used to belong to the people, were handed over to giant media corporations for free in 1996 (rights that were estimated to be worth $70 billion). So ownership rights include the ability to keep any message you deem subversive from the airwaves. In this case, Comcast was willing to broadcast the Other 98%'s "Exxon Hates Your Children" commercial -- until they were threatened with legal action by Exxon Mobil.
by John Sellers, Executive Director at The Other 98%
When we teamed up with Oil Change International and Environmental Action to make a 30-second climate change ad to end all 30-second climate change ads, we knew "Exxon Hates Your Children" was a title and frame that Exxon would not be 100% happy with. But we also knew that the conversation on climate change requires bold and unrestrained talk about the problems we face. Most of all, we were excited to inject a fact that is virtually absent from the public debate: while Exxon wrecks our children's climate, we taxpayers give them free money to the tune of $10 Billion a year to keep doing it. So, we expected some pushback.
What we didn't expect was that Exxon would cop to hating our free speech too.
During last month's State of the Union address our nationally crowdfunded PSA, “Exxon Hates Your Children,” was scheduled to air, on Fox News, in Exxon's backyard of Houston. Exxon didn't like that, and so they threatened Comcast with a hastily produced cease-and-desist email at almost literally the last minute. You can see the ad they didn't want you to see here:
You read that right: the world's richest company wants those $10 billion in taxpayer subsidies so badly that it is willing to pit the full force of its PR machinery against literally 30 seconds of criticism, aired on one night, on one station, once.
Exxon thought its intimidation would be the final word. But they don't understand how the internet works. First, we joined with Oil Change International in making what Exxon did public, launching an open letter entitled 'Exxon, You Can't Silence Us' that gathered 24,000 signatures in its first 24 hours, making it to the front pages of Reddit and the Huffington Post alike.
Second, we took our ad to the streets, projecting the video on the wall of the Congressional Exxon in DC. Over 150 people turned out in freezing weather to join us, Oil Change International, 350, The Illuminator Crew, and We Act Radio in saying that Exxon can’t silence the people working to combat climate change.
Well, no better place to start than here.