Clear Channel Has The Balls CBS Doesn't, When It Comes To Semi-Controversial Billboards

Keep Houston Press Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

File this in a drawer marked Things We Never Thought We’d Say: Go, Clear Channel!

The company has agreed to run billboards for the Soldier Billboard Project, which feature Suzanne Opton’s photos of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The billboards were originally slated to be run by CBS Outdoor, which backed out of a contract that was in the works in Houston with DiverseWorks.

The Soldier Billboard Project went up without a problem in Denver during the Democratic Convention. It was slated to run in Minneapolis/St. Paul, site of the Republican Convention, but CBS Outdoor pulled the contract before it went up there.

“I don’t know why this happened this way,” Diane Barber, Co-Director/Visual Arts Curator of DiverseWorks, tells Hair Balls, “but CBS Outdoor had also been the contract holder for this project in Denver, which is where the Democratic Convention was, and there was no issue. The billboards were put up, the content was the same, but for whatever reason – and we can be suspicious or not – when it happened in Minneapolis, it was a different thing that affected everything subsequent. I don’t know what prompted their decision to approve it for some audiences and not others.”

CBS Outdoor was also supposed to feature the billboards in Miami; they will be put up in Atlanta by another company.

Opton’s photos are close-up, horizontal images of soldiers’ faces. A press release from the Soldier Billboard Project included this explanation from CBS Outdoor’s executive vice president of marketing, written in an email to the artist: “The reason we have advised you that we cannot post these as billboards is that out-of-context (neither in a museum setting or website) the images, as stand-alone highway or city billboards, appear to be deceased soldiers. The presentation in this manner could be perceived as being disrespectful to the men and women in our armed forces.”

Do you think the soldiers look dead? We don’t.

Barber says DiverseWorks wasn’t expecting the ruckus the project has caused. There have been many news stories about the episode (we originally saw one on Sean Carroll’s blog.) “I am surprised this is creating a controversy at all,” she says. “My opinion of the billboards and the artist’s intent is to show soldiers as human beings…Her intent with this project is not political in nature, she states that outright.” The controversy, says Barber, is a “fabricated controversy.”

When the contract with DiverseWorks was pulled, says Barber, “we instantly started thinking of alternatives.” One idea was to make banners and get friends to host them at different locations around town. But then they got a deal with Clear Channel. As Barber says, “Go figure.”

The billboards will go up here in conjunction with the opening of the DiverseWorks season on September 12. Look for them along I-45.

Cathy Matusow

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.