Tobacco ‘apology’ ads still excludes most Black media

George Curry | 5/1/2014, 7:54 p.m.
A revised plan for major tobacco companies to purchase court-ordered ads to admit that they deliberately misled the public about ...
An unidentified teen girl is smoking in the park during a conversation with a friend. Associated Press File Photo

Under its latest plan, the tobacco firms propose advertising in only 14 of approximately 200 Black newspapers: The Arizona Informant, the Denver Weekly News, the Inner-City News (Connecticut), The Gary Crusader (Indiana), the Louisville Defender, Insight News (Minnesota), The St. Louis American, The Omaha Star, the Ohio City News, Black Chronicle (Nebraska), The Portland Skanner, The Seattle Skanner, the Milwaukee Courier and The Charlotte Post.

The tobacco companies proposed reducing what it called “major-circulation newspapers,” i.e. White dailies, from 29 to 27, eliminating the Boston Herald, The Florida Times-Union, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Fresno Bee, the New York Post, The New York Sun [which has closed], the Orlando Sentinel, The Palm Beach Post, The Sacramento Bee, the San Diego Union-Tribune and the Tallahassee Democrat from the original list.

Added were: The Baltimore Sun, the Birmingham News, The Charleston Post & Courier, The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Tenn., the Detroit Free Press, The New Orleans Picayune, The Newark Star-Ledger and The News Journal in Delaware.

Remaining on both ad buy lists were: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Boston Globe, the Charlotte Observer, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Tribune, The Dallas Morning News, the Houston Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, the Miami Herald, the New York Daily News, The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times), USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.

The initial proposal called for television ads to be placed only on ABC, CBS or NBC because they reached the largest number of viewers Monday through Thursday in the desired 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. primetime slot. The same holds true for African American viewers.

“For the same days of the week and hours of the day, the average African-American audience on CBS was 872,000; on NBC, 621,000; and on ABC, 758,000,” the revised proposal stated. “To be sure, the three channels for which African Americans comprised the highest percentage of viewers, on average, were TV One (89.7%), BET (81.7%), and VH1 (67.6%). But VH1 averaged 442,000 African-American viewers, BET averaged 418,000 African-American viewers, and TV One averaged 127,000 African-American viewers – more than 300,000 fewer African-American viewers on average per timeslot than on ABC, CBS, and NBC.”

Under the revised plan, “… Up to one-third of the spots may run on a program that is not on ABC, CBS, or NBC if it has an overall audience at least as large as the least-viewed time slot of ABC, CBS, and NBC during the prescribed days of the week and hours of the day, and Defendants use their best efforts to ensure more African-American viewers than the ‘benchmark timeslot.’”

In other words, TV One would technically be eligible to receive commercials, but probably won’t get them because they can’t match the audience numbers available on ABC, CBS and NBC.

No proposal was made to advertise on radio or magazines in either the original or revised plan.