***Updated*** Exclusive: Clear Channel rejects gay-themed artwork for billboards promoting St. Pete Pride

By on June 11, 2010

***Update***6:14 p.m.*** St. Pete Pride responds to Clear Channel’s efforts to remedy the situation:

Thank you for your response. First off, St. Pete Pride would be happy to continue our relationship with Clear Channel Outdoor Tampa Bay and appreciate your mentioned commitment to promoting Pride in the Bay area. However, we feel that the two ads in question were tasteful representations of our community and our event. Again, I repeat that neither ad included any image that would be seen as sexual, immoral, illegal or offensive. These images would, in my opinion, have been perfectly acceptable had they included a heterosexual couple.

I would also like to clear up the fact that even though I am new to the organization, I am not acting unilaterally but following the full consultation with the St. Pete Pride Board of Directors, many of whom have been serving for a number of years. They are all well familiar with the history of the event and the history of the relationship with Clear Channel. I have also seen previously run campaigns.

I would be happy to talk with you further regarding this issue, but at this time we do not have any plans to redesign these ads. I would appreciate your response as to the specific reasons to them being denied. I hope that we can come to a final resolution on this matter and I appreciate your response.

**Update***4:16 p.m.: Fox 13 has posted a story.  Look for stories later from 10 Connects, the Times, Creative Loafing, etc.

***Update*** 2:49 p.m.: St. Pete Pride has issued the following press release on today’s developments:

St. Pete Pride had entered into a contract with Clear Channel Communication to advertise the upcoming St. Pete Pride festival on June 26, 2010 on billboards including electric billboards in Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties. As in past years Clear Channel had taken veto power to the message of diversity and community that St. Pete Pride has tried to advance. Unlike past years however, St. Pete Pride is determined to focus its message on the family aspect of the GLBT community and therefore would not allow Clear Channel to dictate what message we could convey.

It is sad, although not surprising, that the corporation responsible for allowing Rush Limbaugh and other conservative, anti-gay, radio personalities to spew their hate-filled tirades into homes across America, would try to suppress an ad campaign that attempted to show a positive image of the gay community. In the 1960s, advertisers were often wary of including people that weren’t caucasian in ad campaigns in fear that it would make people uncomfortable. While our organization will not apologize for trying to portray our community as equal members of society, sometimes advertising can serve as a positive steward of change by resulting in those uncomfortable reactions that have the power to initiate dialogue.

In that it was a corporate decision of Clear Channel to impose this censorship, it is the decision of St. Pete Pride to end our relationship with Clear Channel. Further, St. Pete Pride will be asking the local governments to review the ordinances granting Clear Channel special privileges in building new signs.

The purpose of St. Pete Pride is to continue promoting unity, visibility, self-esteem and a positive image of and among LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people in the area surrounding St. Petersburg and throughout the state of Florida by way of cultural and educational programs and activities.

***Update***: 12:17 p.m.: Language of the response from St. Pete Pride to Clear Channel:

The images that were not selected do not contain anything that is sexual, immoral, illegal or otherwise offensive in nature. I’m almost certain that you have had billboards in the market which display men and women in both friendly and romantic ways. I can’t seem to understand where these images would be any different, except for the fact that they portray two men and two women, respectively.

**Update***: At 10:30 a.m., Chris Rudisill and the organizers of St. Pete Pride have sent an e-mail to Clear Channel indicating that they, in fact, would like to cancel their entire contract with Clear Channel.

This is a tale of two cities.  Well, actually, it’s a tale of one city or, better yet, one community still divided by issues of sexual orientation.

On one hand, there is the magnificent, magnanimous part of St. Petersburg, which was on display in several places yesterday.  The first display was at the St. Petersburg City Council, which issued its annual proclamation supporting the St. Pete Pride events this month.  A second display I witnessed firsthand at the Carter Woodson Museum, at which Nadine Smith led a thought-provoking discussion about the divide that separates the black and gay communities.

The second part of this community, the darker, homophobic, aspect of the community reared its ugly head again through a series of e-mails I have obtained.  These e-mails are between the organizers of Clear Channel, the company that controls much of the billboard industry in Pinellas County and the organizers of St. Pete Pride.

The bottom line to these e-mails is that Clear Channel is rejecting the gay-friendly artwork St. Pete Pride wanted to use to promote its month of events.  Clear Channel representative Jillian Hanner, who you can e-mail at JillianHanner@clearchannel.com to tell her what you think of Clear Channel’s blatant discrimination, e-mailed the following  to the organizers of St. Pete Pride:

After consulting with our Division President and Public Affairs Director the two images that I attached are the only ones that we have the permission to run for your campaign.  I’m going to schedule these two to begin running on Monday.  If you’d like to create a few more designs that we may be able to use please send them my way.  After I receive approval for any new designs you may have I’ll put them into the rotation with these two.  Please feel free to contact me with any questions.  Thanks!

The artwork in question was this image:

and this one:

However, Clear Channel said it was okay to run these billboards:

and this one:

In other words, Clear Channel approved the artwork depicting the, um, transvestite and the couple adopting a child, which, thanks to the backwards mentality of the rednecks in North Florida who voted for the constitutional amendment doing so, is prohibited in Florida.  But the pictures of gay men and lesbian women — gasp — embracing each other is just too frightening to show in public.

The rejection of the artwork for the billboards has the organizers of St. Pete Pride contemplating not only pulling their business related to their event, but also organizing a larger boycott of Clear Channel.

Developing…

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