Correspondence leading to change in policy
[Email sent to KQED board of directors chair James E. Canales, Jr., October, 2003]
Dear Mr. Canales:
I have had a discussion with your colleagues Kimberly Sparrow and Don Derheim about KQED's running advertisements for Philip Morris's website. I am enclosing the email exchange I had with Ms. Sparrow. I received a call from Mr. Derheim who advised me to send you this email.
I would like to request that the board of KQED adopt a policy of not accepting money or advertising from the tobacco industry. In its television commercials, Philip Morris is taking an approach that represents a departure in strategy from earlier years when it categorically denied that nicotine was addictive and smoking was harmful. Now the company acknowledges the dangers, says there’s no such thing as a safe cigarette, and invites the viewer to visit its website to learn how to quit or why one shouldn’t start in the first place.
What is going on?
1. Philip Morris is hoping that its public pronouncements about the dangers of smoking will prove useful in future litigation, providing the company with plausible deniability.
2. After more than 30 years off the air, Philip Morris is back on TV. You probably know that the company spends far more touting its philanthropy than it does on its “good deeds”.
3. The prevention messages it offers are carefully constructed to promote smoking rather than prevent it. Why would the company discourage sales of its own product?
4. By partnering with highly reputable organizations like KQED, the company gains respectability and legitimacy.
With its powerful lobby, the industry has protected the right to market its product, no matter how dire its consequences. It’s up to us--citizen and public television station alike--to say that even if the industry operates legally, it is a rogue industry and we will not be complicit in conferring legitimacy upon it. The company wins--and we lose--when we buy the lie that it is a changed corporate citizen and that by airing the spot, KQED is supporting an anti-smoking message. That's the cover it wants you to adopt. It's transparent nonsense and beneath the dignity of KQED.
The tobacco industry is unique. Cigarettes are the only legal product that kills when used as directed. The biggest difference between the tobacco industry and other drug pushers is that tobacco kills far more people than all other drugs combined. I urge you to bring this to your board with a recommendation to sever your ties to the tobacco industry. I look forward to hearing from you.
Thank you very much,
[Response from KQED Corporate Secretary Margaret Berry, December, 2003]
Subject: RE: Request that KQED adopt a no-tobacco money policy Date: Fri, 12 Dec 2003 11:02:47 -0800 From: "Margaret Berry" To: "Naphtali Offen"
Dear Mr. Offen:
Thank you for bringing us your concerns about the Phillip Morris USA underwriting credits. As this decision rests within the purview of KQED management, I can report to you that KQED Senior Management has made the decision that we will no longer accept underwriting support from Philip Morris USA when our current contract expires next week.
Thank you again for your interest in KQED. We appreciate your support and thoughtful comments.