Monday 18 December 2017

Ad firms turn down Newstalk 'abortion' billboards

Newstalk campaign
Newstalk campaign
Allison Bray

Allison Bray

Fears of a backlash from campaigners on both sides of the abortion debate have prompted two of Ireland's leading outdoor advertisers to decline to run billboard ads for radio station Newstalk.

The broadcaster is launching a series of provocative outdoor advertising billboards tomorrow to encourage public debate on what it believes are key issues in the upcoming election, including the economy, the role of religion in education and the refugee crisis.

But a billboard featuring an ultrasound scan of a foetus accompanied by the slogan "Time to terminate the 8th?' was deemed to be too provocative for both Clear Channel and JC Decaux outdoor advertisers, according to Newstalk Editor-in-Chief Garrett Harte.

"They have communicated to us that they feel the subject matter is so controversial that they cannot run with same," he said of the debate over the controversial 8th amendment of the Constitution.

The amendment - passed after a highly charged referendum campaign in 1983 - guarantees the right to life of the unborn and gives it equal status to the mother's right to life.

While citing the companies' prerogative to turn down the contract even though the billboard doesn't promote a view on the highly divisive issue, Mr Harte said he was told the ad "may inflame opinion to the extent that it leaves their plant, property and site vulnerable to damage. With one of the owners citing that their staff has suffered personal harassment from various groups in previous outdoor campaigns relating to this subject matter."

Officials from both advertisers could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Mr Harte said: "The fact that two of the country's largest outdoor media owners felt compelled to stop the posting of an advert on the subject really demonstrates the divisive nature of this issue."

Although Mr Harte said he is not anticipating a backlash against Newstalk for running the ad, he believes it will spark considerable debate.

"Our role is to lead the debate, but it's certainly an issue that our listeners have engaged with," he said.

The other billboards include a photo of a dishevelled girl sitting in what looks like a squat with a baby accompanied by the caption: "Cead Mile Failte?"

Another shows an image of a crucifix alongside a school blackboard and the caption: "Who in God's name should run our schools?"

Sunday Independent

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