ViacomCBS Networks Went Dark on Monday to Air This Chilling 8:46 Video

A stark memorial to George Floyd

At 5 p.m. ET and 5 p.m. PT today, the MTV and ViacomCBS Entertainment & Youth Group networks will run a chilling spot featuring simple white text against a black background.

The copy reads: "I Can't Breathe," and the PSA lasts 8:46, a reference to George Floyd, the 46-year-old black man who died a week ago in Minnesota while in police custody. Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pinned Floyd to the ground with his knee for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, as three other officers looked on. All four were subsequently fired, and Chauvin charged with 3rd-degree murder and 2nd-degree manslaughter. The phrase "I can't breathe" has quickly become a rallying cry for those seeking social justice and sweeping reform in the law enforcement ranks.

ViacomCBS | Black Lives Matter

The episode, of course, has ignited civil unrest and riots across the nation and cities worldwide.

Created internally, the spot also features unsettling breathing sounds and encourages audiences to join with network partner Color of Change in calling for public officials to act. It will run on MTV, Comedy Central, Paramount Net, Pop, VH1, TV Land, CMT and Logo, as well as sibling networks BET, Nickelodeon and CBS Sports.

Entertainment & Youth Group president Chris McCarthy sent this email to his team about the spot:

Each of us is welcomed into this world with our first breath. It unites us across the planet as human beings. One week ago, for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the breath of one of our fellow humans was taken from him. His name was George Floyd.

Today at 5 p.m. ET, the E&Y brands and platforms around the world will go dark for 8 minutes and 46 seconds to show our support for the Black Lives Matter movement, and the fight against police brutality and racial inequality.

Our team has created a powerful graphic that focuses on the line "I Can't Breathe" to describe the lives of many who are brutalized by a system built on systemic racism. 

We are seeing the tragic impact of discrimination affect our community in a myriad of ways—including the disproportionate number of people of color who have been impacted by Covid-19—another life or death fight for our breath. 

Breath is one of the many things that unites us—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.

We know there is a lot of work ahead of us, and I am committed to action beyond these words with all of you. We must continue to work together, to look within, and to support one other and our fellow humans—all with compassion for each other.

On Friday, Nike used a similar black-and-white motif in a spot from Wieden + Kennedy, telling those who would ignore racism: "Don't Do It."

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David Gianatasio
David Gianatasio is senior editor at Clio Awards.

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