Join millions of young people telling Viacom to let US decide… place a free call directly to CEO Sumner Redstone on 800-421-0245 … visit the action center at www.comparedecidevote.com/viacom
Who we are
Let US Decide is a new campaign launching on Tuesday, bringing together the country’s leading youth, civic and political organizations to call on media giant Viacom to stop banning legitimate political advertising to young people on its networks. The coalition, representing millions of members, will use advertising, email and phone campaigns, combined with protest demonstrations and a Viacom advertiser boycott to pressure the company to promote free speech on its youth channels. Visit us, join us and join the fight through the Let US Decide Action Center at www.comparedecidevote.com/viacom
Coalition members include Compare Decide Vote, Music for America, Downhill Battle, Project Billboard, People for the American Way, 21st Century Democrats, Stonewall Democrats, New Democrat Network, Young Voter Alliance, The Youth Project, American Progress Action Fund, Network Progress and the Participatory Politics Foundation
Viacom is abusing its near-monopoly position by banning ads that talk to young people about the issues they care about. The company has a civic responsibility to allow debate on its powerful channels.
Most recently, the media giant rejected a message from non-profit group Compare Decide Vote, an organization urging young people to compare presidential candidates across a range of issues and to vote in this year’s election.
The ad, addressing the issues of college funding, minimum wage and the Iraq war was banned by Comedy Central, citing Viacom’s unpublished policy to refuse any ads that don’t come from official candidates. View the banned ad at www.comparedecidevote.com.
What we’re asking for
We’re asking Viacom to do the right thing: stop banning free speech on your networks – let young people decide for themselves on the important issues they care about.
Tell Viacom to let US decide: call 800-421-0245 – we’ll put you straight through to Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone’s office where you can leave him a message telling him to lift the company’s ban on free speech
Send top Viacom execs an email through the Let US Decide action center at www.comparedecidevote.com
Most importantly, make sure Viacom doesn’t stop you from deciding: Compare, Decide and Vote in this election.
Banning meaningful debate
Viacom has been banning substantive advertising that engages young people on issues they care about most.
Poll after poll show young people want to hear more about issues they care about and feel that this year’s presidential candidates don’t address their concerns. Viacom has duty to help by letting young people – their audience - decide for themselves on substantive issues. Hip voter registration drives are important, but they’re just not enough – you’ve got to engage on real issues to get young people interested.
Viacom claims it accepts ads from candidates or parties, but that’s a hollow promise – this year more than ever, presidential candidates are ignoring the big issues young people care about. And campaign finance laws make it harder than ever for organizations who want to air advertising and spur debate.
Viacom is the gate-keeper to young people
If you want to speak to young people on television, all roads lead to Viacom. The company has massive reach over young Americans. Its subsidiary, MTV Networks has even been investigated by the Justice Department for antitrust violations and its channels negotiating tactics have been compared to the mafia.
MTVN beats every network in market share to young people – New York Times
The MTV channel alone has been the most watched channel by young people for over a decade, reaching more than 86 million households nationwide – Los Angeles Times
Comedy Central, another subsidiary, runs two of cable’s most watched shows – Los Angeles Times
Here’s what independent sources have said about Viacom’s dominance over the youth market:
"Very few people have come to grips with how culturally significant MTV Networks is... We should be paying closer attention to people this powerful." Robert Thompson, head of Syracuse University's Center for the Study of Popular Television
“MTV Networks … has given Viacom more influence over the fickle young audience coveted by Madison Avenue than any other media giant.” Los Angeles Times
“Whether MTV's programming is producing a more tolerant generation is arguable, but few would disagree that MTV influences the trends and social norms of today's youth.” Washington Post
“With this type of … access to teenagers, MTV has the potential to mold the opinions of its viewers.” Washington Post
Viacom is putting dollars before democracy
Let’s not forget why Viacom makes massive profits every year: by delivering the youth market to big advertisers. Viacom is perfectly happy to accept advertising dollars from numerous corporations – including highly polemic companies like Halliburton – but won’t take substantive ads on issues that really affect its audience. Why? Are they scared of angering some of their big corporate donors? With profits like these, Viacom can afford to put the audience first:
According to the Los Angeles Times MTV has “generated some the biggest profit margins in the media world” - an estimated 56% in 2003 on sales of $929 million.
With cash-flow margins exceeding 50%, MTV is five times more profitable than most broadcast networks and beats the typical cable outlet by 15%, analysts say.