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Clear Channel Responds to Censored Billboard

A controversial billboard was censored because the advertiser did not get rights to use images of the actors portrayed in the political satire, not because it supports gay marriage, officials at Clear Channel say.

CLEARWATER, FL -- A controversial billboard was censored because the advertiser did not get rights to use images of the actors portrayed in the political satire, not because it supports gay marriage, officials at Clear Channel said.

Dating website beautifulpeople.com bought a billboard near State Road 580 and Belcher Road and wanted to include an image of actors depicting presidential candidate Mitt Romney betrothed to real estate mogul Donald Trump with President Barack Obama officiating.

They were shocked to find out , but the billboard’s seller, Clear Channel.

“It’s a simple legality issue,” said Jim Cullinan, vice president of Clear Channel marketing and communications. “It has nothing to do with anything else ... I wish it was more complicated.”

The censored billboard has white-space cutouts in place of the images of the actors portraying the politicians and businessman. A press release from beautifulpeople.com claimed the action was politcally motived.

Tampa is the host city of the Republican National Convention Aug. 27-30. The billboard is up through August.

“It’s one of our company policies that if you are trying to use that image you have to have those rights,” Cullinan said. “We know certain advertisers use provocative things to try to drive interest. In terms of images of famous people, you have to have those rights.”

Regardless of the fact the advertisement uses actors and not actual images of the politicians and celebrity, Cullinan said, a reasonable person driving past the billboard would not be able to discern the difference.

“Politcal satire, that has been around forever," Cullinan said. "(It) doesn't work on a static billboard."

Cullinan said that is the same reason similar billboards in Los Angeles were censored.

“We are the biggest supporters of First Amendment rights,” Cullinan said.

Alex Tiegen August 02, 2012 at 10:51 AM
Thanks for keeping us informed about the billboard issue.
Gaspar Ramsey August 02, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Can you say "Bullhockey"?
Someone August 02, 2012 at 05:17 PM
CISPA: IRL
Red Sam Rackham August 02, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Political Satire or Libel? That could be why it was censored.
mishi August 02, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Wikipedia "Clear Channel has been criticized for censoring opinions critical of George W. Bush and other Republicans. After Natalie Maines, the singer of the Dixie Chicks, told a London audience "we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas", the band's radio airplay dropped precipitously. Afterwards, some Clear Channel stations removed The Dixie Chicks from their playlists without any noted repercussions from the company. Gail Austin, Clear Channel's director of programming said, 'Out of respect for our troops, our city and our listeners, [we] have taken the Dixie Chicks off our playlists.' ....Clear Channel-owned KTVX was the only local television station that refused to air the paid political message of Cindy Sheehan against the war in Iraq"
Richard August 02, 2012 at 05:37 PM
It looks like censorship to me, because the images were of actors, who presumably consented and even were paid for the use of their images-- and not Romney, Trump, and Obama.
MaryAnne RMaryAnne August 02, 2012 at 05:51 PM
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Red Sam Rackham August 02, 2012 at 06:05 PM
True. However if the actors were look-alikes of Romney, Trump and Obama then the people seing the photo would see those 3 famous people and a libel suit could happen unless a large easily readable disclaimer was on that billboard.
robert shatzkin August 02, 2012 at 06:29 PM
you mean it's not a problem with clear channel a bain company with strong associations with mitt romney??why do i find that hard to believe
robert shatzkin August 02, 2012 at 06:31 PM
romney limbaugh bain o my
Goldie Locks August 02, 2012 at 06:34 PM
So sad. Clear Channel needs a new head of advertising ..one who might be tolerent to all of of us just not those of an alternate liberal lifestyle.
robert shatzkin August 02, 2012 at 06:44 PM
limbaugh (a clearchannel employee) was in the backround crrying like a baby
robert shatzkin August 02, 2012 at 06:46 PM
yes sticking to the subject
Eric Jeffrey August 02, 2012 at 08:20 PM
I suggest that you consult an IP lawyer, because the law is pretty clear that famous people do have an action for illegal use of their likeness if people are likely under the circumstances to think that it is the real person. When you are talking about a billboard, any reasonable likeness is likely to be an issue.
Sandy August 02, 2012 at 10:10 PM
So, if this would have been a picture of Obama & Harry Reid as the "newlyweds" and Pelosi as the the preacher, would y'all still be okay with this "billboard"?
rick barasso August 02, 2012 at 10:20 PM
What's that old saying? "There's no such thing as bad publicity". Chick-fil-a anyone?

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