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Gateway Commercial Raises Hackles at CBS

Times Staff Writer

Computer manufacturer Gateway Inc.'s latest promotional campaign hit an unexpected snag Thursday when the CBS television network balked at running the company’s new commercial, saying it may violate the network’s policy against advocacy ads.

The commercial urges consumers to buy Gateway computers and receive a bundle of free songs. It closes with the address of a Web site that shows consumers how to copy music legally and calls on them to lobby Congress against anti-piracy mandates.

CBS has been a vocal advocate in Washington for such mandates, as has its parent company, media conglomerate Viacom International Inc., whose holdings include Paramount Pictures and Blockbuster Inc.

The mandates would apply to computers and other digital gadgets, including the ones sold by Gateway.

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Dana McClintock, a spokesman for CBS, said the network is still reviewing the Gateway commercial, which was scheduled to run during “CBS Evening News,” and hasn’t ruled out the possibility of airing it later. The network has a policy against running ads that advocate a position on any divisive issue, he said.

Gateway spokesman Brad Williams said it was ironic that CBS would object to the ad, given that the Web site, www.ripburnrespect.com, aims to deter piracy while educating consumers about their rights.

The issue is controversial because technology companies disagree with entertainment companies over how to squash piracy without eliminating consumers’ ability to make personal copies.

“We believe it’s more important than ever that the rights of music fans and artists alike be understood and respected,” the site states.

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The 30-second ad, which would have cost Poway, Calif.-based Gateway as much as $40,000 to run last night, is slated to air on several cable channels and on NBC this week.


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