In News by AHF

By Natalie Hope McDonald
Source: Philly Mag
Philadelphia, PA

The Milton Hershey School – a boarding school about 90 miles west of Philadelphia – has been criticized for refusing to admit a student who’s HIV-positive. This month, DISH Network refused to run a TV spot by AIDS Healthcare Foundation that takes aim at the school’s parent company over the controversial decision.

“We have contracts with the agency that represents Hershey, as well as other networks that Hershey advertises on, and it would be a conflict of interest to run a [sic] Anti–Hershey campaign,” the network said in an email statement.

Click here to watch the ad.

But AHF – which has blasted Hershey from the beginning over its policy about HIV-positive students – is now criticizing DISH for its refusal to broadcast the 30-second paid television advertisement in its L.A. market. The ad, produced entirely by AHF and which features an image of Ryan White, the young man who came to prominence in the 1980s after being banned from his school for being positive, was to begin running on stations on the network this month (May 1).

“We are extremely disappointed that DISH Television censored a paid television advocacy ad in which AHF speaks out against the Hershey Company over HIV/AIDS discrimination at the Hershey School,” says Michael Weinstein, president of AHF. “Technically, as a satellite broadcaster, DISH may have a bit more cover than a traditional broadcaster regarding infringing on our free speech rights under the first amendment; however, it is ironic that we specifically sought to place this spot through DISH on stations like MSNBC, which are filled with policy programs and serious talk shows whose bread and butter is lively debate and discussion about many controversial issues and topics. We think it is cowardly of DISH to block our message as they have.”

DISH said in a statement this week: “Due to the fact that this spot/campaign is a controversial issue, we would apply a Controversial Issues filter (to your spot) which blocks almost every network we insert on based on the restriction documents we receive from the programmers. Even on the networks that technically allow this type of content, we would risk subscriber complaints.”

While broadcasters and service providers alike have always been able to review content before it goes on the air, we can’t help but wonder if DISH would be quite so choosy if the promo starred, say, someone like Tim Tebow and dealt with a pro-life message (remember the Super Bowl?). We’re also wondering how and why they run campaign ads this election season if the goal is not to incite opinion – or even criticism. And what about ads for liquor? They’re readily available on DISH, too, despite the adult message.

Even for those who miss out on the TV spot, AHF has launched a website where the public can learn more about the case and the facts about HIV/AIDS. The group also provides links to send e-letters to three Hershey Company board members who also sit on the board of the Milton Hershey School Trust.

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