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Comcast bars gun, weapons advertising

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Gun shop owners no longer can place locally targeted ads through Comcast on TV networks ranging from ESPN to the Outdoor Channel to Spike TV.

Comcast, the nation's biggest cable system, said it banned gun and weapons advertising to align with longstanding policies at NBCUniversal, the news and entertainment company it has controlled since 2011.

The change “aligns us with the guidelines in place at many media organizations,” Philadelphia-based Comcast said in a statement.

Spokesman Chris Ellis said the Comcast Spotlight division that sells two or three minutes of local ads every hour made the decision. Advertisers learned of the policy in early February. Ads under contract can run through the end of March.

“A lot of companies have backtracked due to perceived pressure from the public,” said Bruce Piendl, general manager of Anthony Arms & Accessories, a firearms retailer and indoor range in West Mifflin.

Comcast and other businesses that sell ads made money from his industry, Piendl said Tuesday.

“It's unfortunate that they want to backtrack because of negative views about gun ownership in America,” he said.

Deal website Groupon made a similar move, Piendl said.

Comcast Spotlight approached Anthony Arms in the past about advertising, Piendl said, but he decided against it because the coverage varies by neighborhood.

The business buys print and radio ads, and if it wanted to get into TV, a spot with a local broadcast channel probably would cost less and cover more territory, Piendl said.

Comcast said the White House didn't request that it stop advertising firearms. The entertainment industry participated in government discussions over gun violence following the December mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Comcast Spotlight sold $2.3 billion in local, regional and national advertising in 2012, and firearm-related advertising was considered a small part of that total. In the Pittsburgh area, Comcast Spotlight sells ad time on more than 80 channels, according to the company's website.

The prohibition on firearms and weapons advertising extends to the NBC Sports Network, formerly an outdoors channel, Ellis said. After Sandy Hook, NBC Sports Network suspended gun programming and gun advertising not related directly to hunting.

Richard Logan, owner of Logan's Gun Galley in North Washington, Butler County, said Comcast has the right to cut off gun ads, just as he can refuse to do business with someone who walks into his store.

“It's their loss,” he said of Comcast. He advertises in print publications and through the store's website.

Comcast's territory extends to 50 million homes and includes much of Western Pennsylvania.

Mike Fotia, manager of Duke's Sport Shop in New Castle, said, “There are other groups on TV that I don't particularly care for, but I still have to pay attention to them when they're on TV. ... To me, it's like free speech.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer contributed.

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