Friday, September 23, 2005

Clear Channel & murals in Portland, OR

Clear Channel and the City of Portland will be in court in March 2006 to decide whether murals should be regulated the same as advertising billboards.

What is art, anyway?

Why does Clear Channel care so much, and what can we do about it?

Stay tuned for more.


Blogger Joe Cotter said...

The idea that a giant media conglomerate like Clear Channel can determine the public art policy for a city like Portland is a novel one. What isn't so novel is the relentless drive by corporations to achieve personhood before the courts. We can see it in action next February and March at the Multnomah County Courthouse in Michael H. Marcus's courtroom (AK Media v. City of Portland). The City's new public art policy is in severe jeopardy and its future will be decided in that courtroom.Hope to see you there. Joe Cotter

3:07 PM  
Blogger Iamthinkingof said...

Clear Channel/AK are large corporations, virtual people in the eyes of the law. Under the corporate model they compete to get their way by any means necessary.

The Oregon constitution is much more supportive of free speech than even the US constitution. So they could win. The default position of the city should be murals+limits on billboards (what we have now) or none of either. That increases the risk of winning for Clear Channel.

The problem with corporations as virtual people under the law is that there are no social controls on the behavior of these virtual people.

CC as corporate policy opposes billboard legislation but they are also counting on putting up more billboards if the win and making more money in Portland.

This is where Portlander's can step in. First inventory Portland billboards operated by Clear Channel/AK. The City may already have a list. List the advertiser. Separate the donated signs from local advertisers and out of towners. Compile a list names and mailing addresses of the VP of marketing, boards of directors, and the top level public relations person at each company placing ads on Portland Clear Channel bill boards. This is pretty simple using the company web sites and a few phone calls.

Obtain agreement from Council for the policy above - if the court decides in favor of CC, all billboards (and murals) would be banned.

Now write advertisers a nice letter, explaining what Clear Channel is trying to do, how all billboards would probably be banned by the council, depriving them of this advertising outlet, that already being associated with Clear Channel in Portland is endangering their brand and if this goes much further, there will be a lot in the press about the issue and their name would necessarily be part of that negative publicity. Call on them to commit to discontinuing their contracts with CC if CC does not immediately withdraw the suit and pledge publically not to challenge the law in Portland in the future.

Talk to the city attourney and RACC to find out what type / placement of billboards would be allowed if CC wins. Mock up in Photoshop placements of billboards with the offices of the current CC advertizers or their billboards in the background. For these Photoshopped potential future billboards, use an ad that conflicts with the brand image of the CC advertiser - a competitor, or a product/service that the target consumer would never buy or support. Here is a chance to put your ad agency but closet adbuster friends to work! Include the photo with the letter, mentioning how a change in the law could adversly affect their brand image by a proliferation of conflicting billboards.

Finally it is time for the law firms and PR firm to realize they are part of the community, real people, not virtual. A polite letter to the partners at Schwabe, Williamson and Wyatt as well as Northwest Strategies could explain how this issue is hurting their good name. Here is where a billboard for a tacky ambulance chasing law firm by the Schwabe offices could come in handy. The pressures that could applied to the law and PR firms should be thought out with a lawyer.

So after a reasonable amount of time if your goals are not met, then pursue the issue in the press. You should have plenty of documentation by then.

12:41 PM  
Blogger Joe Cotter said...

Dear mural artists and supporters,
The Clear Channel trial actually did provide a forum for Portland area mural artists and arts advocates to express themselves about the differences between murals and billboards. It turned out to be a lesson in media, the different constituencies expressing themselves through public art and billboards, the mural process, the use of murals to express political and social concerns and the fact that billboards are all about the money. We are hoping that this effort may result in some real change in the coming months and years.
There was a pretrial hearing on September 21st
and the City filed some pretrial motions that were
approved by Judge Michael H. Marcus. Clear Channel's case was limited and the mural program removed from constitutional scrutiny by the decision. Unfortunately, my case was decimated by the rulings as well. I offered to withdraw as a party because I could no longer see how the case I was planning to present was viable anymore. Judge Marcus encouraged me to think it over. Fortunately I stayed in the trial.
The trial commenced Monday. I had already filed a motion to reconsider the ruling to limit the evidence but the judge once again ruled against me. Over the next day and a half, I managed to construct a foundation to call witnesses by eliciting favorable
testimony from the City and Clear Channel witnesses
during cross examination.
We were finally able to put on a case at the
Clear Channel trial. I found out on Wednesday morning at 10:30 a.m. that we would be able to call witnesses and introduce evidence. We had several people waiting for a phone call and willing to testify. Kathy Oliver, Director of Outside In was the first to testify. Jenny Joyce and Kolieha Bush, both mural artists, testified and then Gideon Hughes, speaking of an earlier PCASC (Portland Central America Solidarity Committee) mural (1988) on the Riverway Inn was next. Gideon was followed by Isaka Shamsud-Din, a retired professor at Portland State University and nationally recognized mural artist who was followed by me.
Thursday morning, John Frohnmayer, former head of the National Endowment for the Arts and former Oregon Arts Commission member testified and then Henry Sayre, a professor at Oregon State University in Bend and author of art text books and other books as well as a 10 part series on OPB television.
The testimony of the witnesses for art was very
well presented we managed to get most of our points on the record. All of the witnesses complemented one another. Isaka Shamsud-Din's testimony was riveting and John Frohnmayer and Henry Sayre's presence went a long way to add legitimacy to our effort with the other parties.
By the way, Isaka, Hector Hernandez, Baba Wague Diakite and I are painting an 1800 square foot mural on the south wall of the Musicians Union on NE 20th between Burnside and Sandy. Isaka Shamsud-Din is the coordinator. We hope to be finished in a week or so.
Our closing arguments are scheduled for November 30, 2006. We are encouraging people to attend. Room 538, Multnomah County Courthouse, Portland.
I want to thank everyone who has worked to get the word out about the mural issue in Portland. In particular, I want to thank Joanne Oleksiak of Portland Mural Defense for the incredible amount of work she has put into this effort over the years. I also want to thank and acknowledge the witnesses and those who were willing to be witnesses but were unable to be called due to the twists and turns in the trial. I can’t thank you enough. That includes the people who were willing to travel to Portland to support this effort and those who provided a venue for us to address this issue as well. Thank you. A special thanks to Susan and Mac at Ash Creek Press and Kathy Oliver at Outside In. You too Mark! And I can’t forget the sign counters, Robin, Gideon and Rin. Actually, the list is very long and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart!
Finally, the fact that we were able to get on record is a step in the right direction but only a step. Nothing is likely to change legally as a result of this phase of the trial and we’ll see what the judge’s opinion says and what the Portland City Council is willing to do. The climate for mural painting has improved since murals and other art in the public forum were first reclassified as signs in 1998 but it is a far cry from what the City of Portland says it stands for and it is unacceptable as a permanent solution. So, please keep the word out. This is a good time to write the Mayor, the City Commissioners, RACC and the various media outlets. Maybe we can finally achieve real support for murals in Portland.
Thank you and Peace. Joe Cotter, Portland Mural Defense

2:43 PM  

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