CBS said Tuesday that its policy regarding advocacy ads has evolved over the past several years and that it would now consider airing "responsibly produced" ones during its broadcast of this year's Super Bowl, as it had done with that of Focus on the Family.
CBS Corp.'s decision to accept advocacy ads that would have been turned down just years ago was made shortly after feminist groups launched a campaign protesting Focus on the Family's upcoming Super Bowl ad, which is expected to feature college football star Tim Tebow and his mom, Pam.
Though the exact content of the ad has not been revealed, many are speculating that it will recount Pam Tebow's refusal to have an abortion while she was pregnant with Tim despite having suffered from a life-threatening infection at the time.
In announcing its intent to broadcast its first Super Bowl ad, Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Focus on the Family said Pam Tebow would be sharing a personal story centered on the theme of "Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life."
"The Tebows said they agreed to appear in the commercial because the issue of life is one they feel very strongly about," Focus on the Family reported.
"Tim and Pam share our respect for life and our passion for helping families thrive," added Focus on the Family president and CEO Jim Daly.
In response to the Christian group's announcement and CBS's initial approval of the ad's script, the Women's Media Center and other pro-choice organizations launched a campaign urging the network to immediately cancel the ad.
"CBS's recent decision to air an anti-choice advertisement ad during Super Bowl XLIV was outrageous," stated the Women's Media Center in a letter to potential petition signers.
"Even worse is the network's about face from its own policy of rejecting controversial Super Bowl ads," it added, referring to CBS's policy against ads that touch upon a "current controversial issue of public importance."
Following the launch of the WMC-led campaign, CBS clarified its current stance, claiming that it has in recent years been considering "responsibly produced" ads from all groups, in keeping with modern trends.
"We have for some time moderated our approach to advocacy submissions after it became apparent that our stance did not reflect public sentiment or industry norms," said spokesman Dana McClintock, according to The Associated Press. "In fact, most media outlets have accepted advocacy ads for some time."
Notably, it was only six years ago that CBS turned down an ad submitted by the United Church of Christ that highlighted the liberal denomination's acceptance of homosexuals and others who might feel shunned by more conservative churches. It has also turned down ads by organizations such as PETA and MoveOn.org.
According to AP, CBS stated Tuesday that the UCC ad would have been accepted for airing under its current policy.
That said, CBS is looking to move past the controversy and focus on the upcoming Super Bowl broadcast.
This year's Super Bowl, which pits the Indianapolis Colts against the New Orleans Saints, will kick off at 6 p.m. ET on Sunday, Feb. 7.
Super Bowl broadcasts are typically viewed by over 90 million people each year.