At 5 p.m. Eastern and Pacific today, ViacomCBS’s entertainment and youth brands (MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network, BET, Pop TV, CMT, VH1, Logo, and Smithsonian) and CBS Sports will cease programming for eight minutes and 46 seconds to protest the death of George Floyd. The time is symbolic, of course, as it is the same length of time that Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin ground his knee into Floyd’s neck and prevented him from breathing despite his entreaties.
The networks will not merely be observing a moment of silence. They will air a devastatingly visceral visual and auditory representation of Floyd’s pain, with the sound of natural breath punctuating the words “I can’t breathe” responding in rhythm with the breath.
Floyd pled for his life by saying “I can’t breathe.”
“Breath is one of the many things that unites us,” Chris McCarthy, president of the entertainment and youth brands, wrote his team, “and during this time, when Black lives are under attack in so many ways, we want to leverage all of our platforms to show our ally-ship. We have partnered with Color of Change to include a call to action—an important step to help all of us understand that we have a responsibility to get involved and be part of the solution. Please be on the look out for a note later today on how all of us can get involved in Black Out Tuesday tomorrow.”
The call to action with Color of Change elevates the powerful spot and the corporate message of support, asking viewers to demand an end to “broken windows” policing, add legitimate civilian oversight boards with full investigatory power, decrease police budgets, and more. More companies should follow suit after the hollow first wave of corporate bromides.