Sunday, December 18, 2005

Clear Channel Censors Billboard

Last week I blogged about the winning slogan in the Campaign for America’s Future contest: Wal-Mart: Killing Local Businesses One Main Street at a Time. My post also included a link where you could make a donation to help put the slogan on a bulletin board near Wal-Mart’s Bentonville headquarters. Well, my hubby and I made a small donation to help the cause, but we got this very disturbing e-mail from CAF over the weekend:
Dear Kathy:

After allowing us to reserve a billboard less than a mile from Wal-Mart’s World HQ, Clear Channel has refused to accept our ad, censoring the message that you selected about Wal-Mart. Bob Sadler, Clear Channel’s Fort Smith, Ark., division president, unilaterally made the decision. To try to rationalize his censorship, he forwarded a copy of Clear Channel’s official content review policy which stated:

"I wish I could offer objective guidelines for reviewing copy, but I can’t. Frankly, I think these kinds of issues need to be viewed the way Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart approached a very controversial pornography case many years ago: "You know it when you see it."

This is outrageous. Our ad isn’t pornography. It is a clear statement of the truth about Wal-Mart. Mr. Sadler is suppressing free speech out of fear of offending Wal-Mart.

Clear Channel owns more billboards than any other company in America and over 1,200 radio stations nationwide. It is simply outrageous that they would use this power to suppress speech -- even a message that we are prepared to pay for. We have to let Clear Channel know that their censorship is unacceptable. Please send an email to Bob Sadler, the man who rejected your billboard, and demand that he not suppress speech to placate Wal-Mart.

Click here to send e-mail to Clear Channel

Needless to say, this outraged me too. I’m frequently on the freeways and I’ve seen billboards for everything from God to adult entertainment, so I really feel Mr. Sadler drew the line on this slogan because he wants to control a message he doesn’t want America to hear; however, here are some more facts from the CAF letter:
As you know, "Wal-Mart: Killing Local Businesses One Main Street at a Time" isn’t just rhetoric, it's reality. Within the first five years of Wal-Mart’s arrival in nearly 1,800 U.S. counties, an average of four small businesses, one mid-sized store and one large store go out of business. [2] And, rather than generating substantial new business, Wal-Mart takes 84% of its business from existing stores, closing down stores on Main Streets across America. [3]

No one censors Wal-Mart’s multi-million dollar ad campaigns. No one stops Wal-Mart from painting its workers as happy, without noting that they are paid so little that most can’t afford health care for their kids.

CAF is pursuing legal actions against Clear Channel, and they’re asking supporters to click on the above link to send an e-mail to Sadler. I signed the letter at that link, but it was bounced back to me several hours later with the following message: Unable to deliver message to the following recipients, due to being unable to connect successfully to the destination mail server.

I don’t know what to make of that development. Sadler may be a coward who simply changed his email address rather than dealing with his critics or it could be something innocent like a full mailbox. I’ll keep trying to send through the link and I’ll try to find an update on the CAF website. If you click the link and send a letter, let me know what happens, okay? This whole incident leaves me shaking my head. Freedom of speech in America sure is under pressure and its not pretty.


Kevin McKague said...

I sent an e-mail as well, but it was returned. Later in the day, I will try to find a snail mail address or a phone number for Mr. Sadler, then I'll get back to you.

Kathy said...

Thanks, Kevin. Let me know if you find an address. I checked the CAF website, but they haven't updated the information. I also sent them an e-mail to let them know what was happening.

Kevin McKague said...

Clear Channel Outdoor
1100 South D Street, Fort Smith, AR 72901
(479) 782-8885

The phone call is free when you make it from work!

Kathy said...

Thanks, Kevin. I've been checking the CAF website to see if they updated the information, but nothing yet. I'm planning on making the call tomorrow if they don't post anything. I resent the letter from their web link and it got bounced back to me again. Grrr...

Kathy said...

Kevin, I sent yet another e-mail, which was promptly bounced back, so I called Clear Channel today. Unfortunately, a man answered the phone and said everyone left work after the Christmas party and wouldn't be back till Tuesday. He offered to take a message and pass it on, but I told him I will call back next week.

Actually, I may just mail them a letter and use up my last few stamps before the rates go up in January.

Also, I'm a little annoyed with CAF. They have not posted any new information on their website and they haven't responded to my e-mail alerting them to the bounce backs. Sigh...trying to help out can sometimes be frustrating.