The new owners of MSNBC at Comcast got rid of one problem when Keith Olbermann was let go by the left-leaning cable channel, but they have another big problem on their hands—their G4 cable television network is scheduled to devote an evening’s worth of programs on April 20, dubbed a “pot smoking holiday” by marijuana users, to celebrating and promoting the drug. Parents and anti-drug activists are outraged.
A G4 promotion ad for the programming shows marijuana cigarettes, marijuana leaves, young people smoking dope, and the dope itself, while the Andy Williams song, “The most wonderful time of the year,” is played. It mocks the loss of memory that accompanies marijuana use, as someone is heard coughing and saying, “What was I calling for?”
The graphic, “A Division of NBC Universal,” is at the bottom of the page. Comcast Corporation owns a controlling 51 percent interest in NBC Universal, with General Electric holding a 49 percent stake.
Rebecca Hernandez of H.A.R.M. (Health Advocates Rejecting Marijuana) says, “Comcast/NBC Universal is responsible to their viewing audience and to our nation’s youth for making more appropriate programming decisions around drug use, drug promotion and trivialization.”
“We struggle daily to push back against the pro-marijuana lobby and their message to youth trivializing and normalizing marijuana use,” she told AIM.
In the Olbermann case, Comcast said it had no role in Olbermann’s departure because the firm had not closed the transaction for NBC Universal and had no operational control of any of its properties, including MSNBC.
But the G4 case is something else entirely, since the merger and takeover have gone through and there is no question that Comcast/NBC Universal has total control over G4. It will be difficult, if not impossible, for Comcast to wash its hands of the decision to air several hours of “stoner” programming, even though similar material has been airing on the cable network in previous years.
Kelly Susco, a publicist for G4, told AIM that “The legal use of marijuana will be explored, and its illegal use will not be condoned.”
But one of the G4 programs, “Super High Me,” is described as a docu-comedy featuring comedian Doug Benson as he “smokes marijuana every day for 30 days and hilarity ensues as viewers witness the impact this has on his everyday life.”
Another show will enable viewers “to fly across the globe to the Spannabis cup in Barcelona, where Alex Sim-Wise explores the world’s biggest pot festival, to see the crowning of the number one strain in Europe. Returning to the States, viewers will see when what happens in Denver at High Times Medical Cannabis Cup!”
These “Spannabis cup” and “Cannabis cup” events are designed to celebrate techniques for growing the best dope.
Susco acknowledged that “The programming is not appropriate for every viewer (especially children) and G4 is committed to empowering parents to control what their children are watching.”
She added, “Through cable and satellite providers there are a variety of tools that let customers decide what their families may see.”
The same kind of statement was released when Comcast came under fire for refusing to disclose its revenue from pornography channels. Sena Fitzmaurice handles questions of this nature as Comcast Vice President of Corporate Communications—Government & Regulatory Communications. She works out of the company’s Washington public affairs or lobbying office.
Comcast, a communications giant, is also involved in negotiations to carry terror TV channel Al-Jazeera as part of its daily line-up.
G4, said to be one of the fastest growing networks on television among men 18-34, uses “stoner” language to describe what it is doing on April 20: “Once again, G4 is lighting up our annual 4/20 event! It’s time to clear the smoky haze from the room because we’ve got a huge stash of 4/20 goodness that’s sure to leave you stoked.”
Hernandez says the network is playing with the lives of young people. “Over 77 percent of adolescents entering youth substance abuse treatment programs in our County are entering for addiction to marijuana,” she says. “Over the past three years three national studies continue to sound the alarm that drug use, and in particular marijuana use, is on the uptick, while youth perception of harm of marijuana use continues to decline.”
She says the studies are:
PATS—Partnership Attitude Tracking Study
MFS—Monitoring the Future Study out of the University of Michigan
NSDUH—National Survey on Drug Use and Health
This is the fifth year in a row that the G4 network has glorified the use of the illegal drug. However, it is the first year under its new owners. G4 is a network of NBC Universal Cable Entertainment, a division of NBC Universal, which came under the control of Comcast earlier this year.
NBC Universal includes NBC News, CNBC, MSNBC, G4, and other properties. The new management includes Stephen B. Burke of Comcast, Brian Roberts of Comcast, and Jeffrey Immelt of General Electric.
The new president of Comcast/NBC Universal is Kyle McSlarrow, the former President & CEO of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) with a history of involvement with conservative candidates and causes. He could not be reached for comment.
The Comcast Public Policy Office, where McSlarrow works, is located at 2001 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 500, Washington, DC, 20006. But nobody could be reached at its phone number of 202-379-7100.
We also tried to contact Neil Tiles, the president of G4. He could not be reached for comment at 323-954-2400.
G4 is described as a network “that feeds young guys’ addiction for the latest technology, web culture, animation, movies, pop culture, videogames and more.” But the prospect of G4 promoting not only marijuana but addiction is alarming to anti-drug activists.
Rebecca Hernandez of H.A.R.M. said the North Coastal Prevention Coalition (NCPC) is countering the pro-dope message by reclaiming April 20 “as a day to celebrate sober and drug free life choices.”
She explained, “Hundreds of North County youth will gather again to celebrate the 8th Annual 4/20 Remix—A Celebration of Sober and Drug Free Life Choices on April 20th, 2011 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. All 6th to 9th graders in the cities of Carlsbad, Vista and Oceanside are invited to attend. The event will take place for the third year at Boomers! Family Entertainment Center, located at 1525 W. Vista Way in Vista, California.”