National Catholic Register


NBC Sacks Super Bowl Ad for Life



February 8-14, 2009 Issue | Posted 1/30/09 at 1:53 PM


CHICAGO — NBC has refused to air’s new pro-life ad during its broadcast of this Sunday's Super Bowl game.

According to a Jan. 29 press release from, “After several days of negotiations, an NBC representative in Chicago told today that NBC and the NFL are not interested in advertisements involving ‘political candidates or issues.’”

Said Brian Burch, president of, “There is nothing objectionable in this positive, life-affirming advertisement. We show a beautiful ultrasound, something NBC’s parent company, General Electric Co., has done for years. We congratulate Barack Obama on becoming the first African-American president. And we simply ask people to imagine the potential of each human life.”

The 30-second ad has no graphic content or even any direct references to abortion.

It features an ultrasound image of a baby in the womb and images of Barack Obama, along with a narration describing how the president’s mother chose to give birth to Obama and nurture him as a single mother after his Kenyan-born father left the family, leading ultimately to Obama growing up to become the nation’s first African-American president.

“The purpose of our new ad is to spread a message of hope about the potential of every human life, including the life of Barack Obama,” Burch said in the press release.

The pro-life ad can be viewed on the Internet at

It was first released Jan. 19, timed to coincide with Obama’s inauguration the next day. It immediately became one of YouTube’s most watched videos after it was posted on the Internet.

The ad was broadcast on Black Entertainment Television in Chicago during its Jan. 21 coverage of the presidential inauguration.

In a Jan. 27 interview, Burch told the Register that NBC officials had just told him that their legal department had decided the pro-life ad was suitable for airing during Sunday’s Super Bowl broadcast after watching the video.

Burch, who is also president of the Fidelis Center for Law and Policy, said that an NBC official told him, “I’m neither pro-life nor pro-choice, but this is the best pro-life ad I’ve ever seen.”

The Register contacted NBC Jan. 29 for comment about the corporation’s subsequent decision to refuse’s pro-life ad. NBC had not replied to the Register by the time this article went to press later that day.

Burch said in’s Jan. 29 press release that a double standard appears to have been applied against the pro-life ad.

Burch noted that an animal-rights ad submitted by PETA for airing on this year’s Super Bowl broadcast was rejected for excessive sexual content, not for its advocacy of a political issue.

Said Burch, “NBC claims it doesn’t allow advocacy ads, but that’s not true. They were willing to air an ad by PETA if they would simply tone down the sexual suggestiveness. Our ad is far less provocative and hardly controversial by comparison.” initially did not plan to try to air the ad during the Super Bowl, which has the most expensive advertising rates of any TV broadcast due to the game’s huge audience each year.

“The ad has been wildly popular, and so last week we sent out kind of a summary of the response,” Burch told the Register. “And as part of it, to generate interest, we said that people are talking about wanting to run it on the Super Bowl, because there was a big conversation about this in the forum on our website. And we said, ‘You know, it’s probably impossible to raise three million dollars [to run it during the Super Bowl], but we want to run it on TV.’”

Birch says Internet-savvy pro-lifers immediately rallied to the cause of trying to secure a Super Bowl slot for the ad.

“People kind of looked on it as a challenge,’ he said. “A Facebook group launched, and a small but enthusiastic viral campaign began to generate the funds needed to run it on the Super Bowl. Frankly, we didn’t really think it possible to begin with. But as we saw enthusiasm begin to build, we thought, ‘Maybe this is God kicking us.’ And we said, ‘If God wants to make it happen, he’ll make it happen.’ So we started making calls.”

In order to try to raise the millions of dollars that would have been required to air the ad during the Super Bowl broadcast, also reached out to some major pro-life philanthropists.

A number of the philanthropists expressed interest in donating money prior to NBC’s decision to refuse to air the ad, said Joshua Mercer, communications director of the Fidelis Center for Law and Policy. is continuing to seek donations through its website in order to air the ad on other prime-time TV broadcasts. People wanting to donate to help get the pro-life ad on TV can make contributions at

Burch stresses that the money donated will be used to purchase other prime slots on network TV for the ad.

“We’re looking at slots during the State of the Union address as well as during the upcoming Academy Awards,” he told the Register. “Those are other options we’re looking at.”

Tom McFeely is based in

Victoria, British Columbia.