The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Aaron Huertas
Press Secretary Landline: 202-331-5458
Cell: 202-236-8495

At RNC, Clear Channel OKs Pro-Coal Ad, Removes UCS's

Northwest Airlines and Clear Channel Selectively Apply Advertising Policy


week Northwest Airlines and Clear Channel Outdoor took down the Union
of Concerned Scientists' (UCS) anti-nuclear-weapons billboards in the Minneapolis and Denver
airports ostensibly because they did not meet airport advertisement
policies. But given that both the airline and Clear Channel have not
objected to a pro-coal billboard on the same concourse in the Minneapolis
airport where UCS's billboard appeared, it is apparent that both the
airline and Clear Channel apply their no-politics policies
selectively. (UCS can provide pictures of both advertisements.)


asked why Northwest Airlines objected to the Union of Concerned
Scientists' anti-nuclear billboard in the Minneapolis airport,
Northwest spokesperson Tammy Lee told reporters that the airline does
not "allow controversial or political advertising in our concourse, and
this one [UCS's billboard] was both." She added that Clear Channel's
contract with the airport authority states: "Under no circumstances
shall displays embody controversial, social, moral, political or
ethical issues." (In one story she also characterized UCS's billboards
as political "attack ads," even though both presidential candidates
largely agree with UCS's position on ridding the world of nuclear

So why isn't the airline objecting to a coal industry billboard that is now posted in the same Minneapolis airport concourse where ours was located? (See attached photo below.)

found out about this coal billboard, which is located between gates G13
and G14, from emails between Northwest officials and Clear Channel
regarding our billboard. Northwest's director of customer service and
airport operations, Rick Feltner, complained in the email exchange that
someone had placed a sticker with "an opposing point of view" on the
billboard. Note that he was not objecting to the billboard itself.

coal billboard touts "clean coal." Clean coal is an oxymoron. It's akin
to saying "safe cigarette." Coal is not clean. Coal-fired power plants
in the United States produce one-third of America's carbon dioxide
emissions -- about the same amount as all our cars, SUVs, trucks,
buses, ships and planes combined (for more about coal, see UCS's 2006
report, "Gambling with Coal," at

coal billboard violates Clear Channel's contract with the airport
authority as well as Northwest's policy. It is clearly controversial.
And given that there is a raging policy debate over the future of coal,
any ad promoting coal is political. Why hasn't Northwest asked Clear
Channel to take down this billboard?

The email exchange is reproduced below:

-----Original Message----- From: Nelson, Kathleen J (Reg Director)

Sent: Monday, August 18, 2008 2:44 PM To: HARDIE, PEGGY Subject: Re:

I just took a look and I can see how this would be offensive/scary to some (the concept of our city in the crosshairs of a nuclear bomb) and the strong anti-McCain message. Can we remove it?

The coal ad with the sticker is between G13 and G14 along the moving walkway.


------------------- -----Original Message----- From: Nelson, Kathleen J (Reg Director)

Sent: Monday, August 18, 2008 1:17 PM To: HARDIE, PEGGY Subject:

Peggy - we've had several complaints about an ad near G16-G17 by this group and the fact that it is political and evidently has a picture of Mpls in crosshairs and talks about nuclear bombs and is anti-McCain. I'll go down and look at it in a bit, but wondered what you knew. Also see note below re: another ad.

------------------- Sent from my BlackBerry

----- Original Message ----- From: Feltner, Rick To: Nelson, Kathleen J (Reg Director) Sent: Mon Aug 18 13:12:33 2008 Subject: Re: VM

Ok. On your way down take a look at the coal ad as well. Looks like someone put a sticker on it with an opposing point of view.

Rick Feltner

----- Original Message ----- From: Nelson, Kathleen J (Reg Director) To: Feltner, Rick Sent: Mon Aug 18 13:07:40 2008 Subject: VM

Got your voicemail. I am actually over here in a MAC mtg and will take a look at it and talk to clear channel.

I'll get back to you later.

------------------- Sent from my BlackBerry

on this email exchange, it is clear that Northwest officials object to
ads that do not reflect their political views but apparently have no
problem with ads that advance views they support.

also is clear from the email exchange that Northwest's objections to
our billboard were because, according to Northwest Regional Director
Kathleen J. Nelson, it could be seen as "offensive/scary" and because
of its "very strong anti-McCain message." Note that the airline told
reporters that its objection to the billboard was not motivated by
partisan considerations.

also should be noted that Northwest is the official airline of the
Republican National Convention. Northwest Airlines' CEO, Doug
Steenland, is on the Republican National Convention host committee
board (see

Northwest's request to Clear Channel to remove UCS's billboard
politically motivated? We think so - even though, as we have previously
pointed out, Sen. McCain largely agrees with our goal of ridding the
world of nuclear weapons (see Sen. McCain's official campaign site:


Channel apparently has a history of rejecting political advertisements
that do not reflect its corporate views while accepting other political
advertisements that do. (For more information on Clear Channel's track
record of rejecting advertising, go to: and For an overview of Clear Channel from Sourcewatch, go to

In our case, Clear Channel accepted our billboards and posted them. The Minneapolis billboard went up on August 13 and the Denver billboard went up on August 15. It wasn't until the following week that the company decided to take them down.


Clear Channel caved to Northwest's request to take down the Minneapolis
airport billboard ostensibly because the airline has the right to
reject advertisements on its concourses. But why did Clear Channel
remove the version of the billboard in Denver addressing Sen. Obama? Chuck Cannon, director of public affairs at the Denver International Airport,
told reporters that the airport had no problem with the ad. As reported
in Advertising Age, Cannon said, "While no one has complained yet, my
first response would not be to take it down."


billboards are a part of a larger UCS media campaign that includes
smaller versions in bars and restaurants around the convention sites.
The group also bought Web ads on Minnesota and Colorado political blog sites. (For more on UCS's ad campaign, go to

UCS campaign builds on the organization's multiyear effort promoting a
fundamental reassessment of the role, purpose and future of U.S. nuclear weapons. Earlier this year, UCS released "Toward True Security: Ten Steps the Next President Should Take to Transform U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy" and a scientists statement on nuclear weapons signed by 21 Nobel laureates. In December 2007, the organization conducted a public opinion poll in South Carolina that found more than two-thirds of likely Republican and Democratic primary voters in that state want the United States
to spearhead an international effort to reduce the number of nuclear
weapons globally and believe that those reductions would make the United States safer.

The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world. UCS combines independent scientific research and citizen action to develop innovative, practical solutions and to secure responsible changes in government policy, corporate practices, and consumer choices.