Ellen Misses The Boat

April 10, 1997

The splash around "Ellen's" coming out has turned to waves for one lesbian-owned business because of a decision by the ABC network not to air their advertisement during the upcoming episode when the lead character announces that she is a lesbian.

The network rejected Olivia Cruise Lines request to buy air time with the explanation that their ad was unfit for younger viewers. Though shooting of the ad has not yet begun, plans called for the commercial to show two women kissing aboard a cruise ship. The company considered the ad to be a compliment to the theme of the April 30 episode. "I'm really disappointed because I was looking forward to being a very proud sponsor of this show," said Judy Dlugacz, founder and president of Olivia Cruise Lines, based in Oakland, California.

Some have called ABC's decision to dock the ad "a double standard" considering that the network is willing to broadcast a show about a lesbian discovering herself. "As more gay and lesbian-themed programming begins to air, network executives will have to take another look at their advertising policies," said Kerry Lobel, Task Force executive director. "They don't seem to have a problem running an ad for other cruise lines with happy straight couples kissing and being romantic," she stated. "Aren't there children watching those programs too?" she asked.

"The programming and advertising policies of networks should be more consistent," said Mark F. Johnson, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, (NGLTF) Media Director. "It seems schizophrenic that the network would run the gay-themed episode and not run an ad that showed women who happened to be lesbian enjoying themselves in an affirming way," he added.

Networks have long had a policy of not airing "controversial" advertising because of their fear of offending viewers. "Perhaps it is time to take another look at what is considered "controversial," said Lobel. "If gays and lesbians are finally suitable for programming, why are we being hidden away from commercials?" Lobel asked.

NGLTF encourages those who are concerned about ABC's decision to decline the Olivia Cruise Lines ad to urge corporate officials to reconsider its advertising policy and to not decline gay-themed ads solely because they are gay-themed. ABC officials have so far had no comment on its decision to dock the Olivia Cruise Lines advertisement.

To ask the network about its advertising policies, call ABC at 212-456-7777 or email them at


The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.