By David Swanson, World BEYOND War, October 13, 2022
Global NGO World BEYOND War sought to rent four billboards in front of NATO headquarters in Brussels with messages of peace. These were small billboards at train stops. Here is the image that we sought to use:
The U.S.-based organization Veterans For Peace has partnered with us on this campaign. We’ve successfully rented a mobile billboard in Washington, D.C. for the image of two soldiers hugging. The image was first in the news as a mural in Melbourne painted by Peter ‘CTO’ Seaton.
In Brussels, however, the world’s largest outdoor advertising company, according to Wikipedia, JCDecaux censored the billboards, and communicated that with this email:
“First of all, we would like to thank you for your interest in our publishing opportunities via our web-based platforms.
“As mentioned on our purchase platform in the terms and conditions, not all communications are possible. There are a number of restrictions: f.e. no religiously oriented messages, no offensive messages (such as violence, nudity, me too related visuals…), no tobacco, and no politically oriented messages.
“Your message is unfortunately politically tinted since it refers to the current war between Russia & Ukraine and therefore cannot be accepted.
“We will ensure that the payment you made through the internet platform will be immediately refunded.
The rationale claimed above for the censorship is hard to take seriously, when a few minutes of searching turns up the following.
Here is a political JCDecaux ad promoting the French military:
Here is a political JCDecaux ad promoting the British military:
Here is a political JCDecaux ad promoting the British Queen:
Here is a political JCDecaux ad promoting an airshow promoting war preparations and the purchase by governments of expensive war weapons:
Here is a political JCDecaux ad promoting a government buying expensive war weapons:
Nor can we take seriously the notion that large advertising companies simply must censor messages of peace and make up some excuse for it. World BEYOND War has on many occasions successfully rented billboards with pro-peace and anti-war messages from each of JCDecaux’s main rivals: including Lamar:
and Clear Channel:
and Pattison Outdoor:
Gerry Condon of Veterans For Peace comments:
“The mass media is full of one-sided narratives and commentary supporting more weapons and war for Ukraine, but we cannot even BUY a message that promotes peace and reconciliation. We are trying to stop a longer and wider war — even a nuclear war. Our message is clear: War Is Not the Answer — Negotiate for Peace Now! As veterans who have experienced the carnage of war, we are concerned about the young soldiers on both sides who are being killed and injured in the tens of thousands. We know all too well that the survivors will be traumatized and scarred for life. These are additional reasons why the Ukraine war must end now. We ask you to listen to veterans who say ‘Enough is Enough—War is Not the Answer.’ We want urgent, good faith diplomacy to end the war in Ukraine, not more U.S. weapons, advisors, and endless war. And certainly not a nuclear war.”
The censorship is not unprecedented. Smaller companies have used the same trick numerous times of treating war as non-political but peace as political — and political as unacceptable. Large companies sometimes accept pro-peace billboards and sometimes do not. In 2019 in Ireland, we ran into censorship that generated almost certainly more attention than the billboards would have. In that case, I contacted a Sales Manager at Clear Channel in Dublin, but he stalled and delayed and evaded and prevaricated until I finally took a hint. So, I got in touch with a Direct Sales Executive at JCDecaux. I sent him two billboard designs as an experiment. He said he would accept one but refuse the other. The acceptable one said “Peace. Neutrality. Ireland.” The unacceptable one said “U.S. Troops Out of Shannon.” The JCDecaux executive told me that it was “company policy not to accept and display campaigns deemed to be of a religious or politically sensitive nature.”
Perhaps we are again dealing with a problem of “sensitivity.” But why should corporations out to maximize their profits have the ability to decree what is too sensitive and what isn’t for public space in so-called democracies? And, regardless of who controls the censorship, why must it be peace that is censored and not war? For the holidays perhaps we’ll have to put up a sign wishing everyone BLEEEEP On Earth.
Wars are created and prolonged by politicians but messages promoting war are not political? What an Orwellian world.
This is absolutely disgusting and hypocritical,what JC Decaux and other advertising companies do.The utterly one-sided,unfair policies that allow promotion of war and armed forces yet refuse to allow messages of peace and non-violence on their billboards has to stop.
It’s clear that this fcompany’s profits, and those of its affiliates, come from war, not peace. This in itself is political. It is dishonest to refuse ads promoting peace on the grounds that they are political and therefore not within your scope. If your scope is war not peace, you are advertising death.
It is dangerous to accept ads for war and not peace. This is anti-humane. It is asking for destruction.
Please pass on my observation that Decaux’s preference for profit over peace will be widely noted.
I suggest we put up billboards calling out Decaux for its supreme hypocrisy. Existential question: should a billboard sponsor murder, or should it sponsor saving lives?
Their corporate history contradicts their excuses. It’s beyond insulting for them to use that excuse for denial. Tell them that.
JC Decaux own most of the bus stops in Europe. They control every billboard on the route from Edinburgh Airport to the Scottish Parliament and along the tramline (there is only one tramline) that runs from the airport to the city centre and main retail mall in Edinburgh. We found this out when we managed to raise a budget to use billboards to advertise the entry into force of the TPNW because the UK mainstream media ignored our press releases about it. We found some smaller companies that took our ads but mostly relied on pop up projections (without permission). These guys are funded by the war machine and are just as much if not even more part of it than the investors of the weapon builders, at least some of whom are now divesting from nuclear weapons. They are the otwellian threat to all life on earth.
Thanks for this report.
I think there is maybe a call for the suggestion above my reply to actively call out JC Decaux for inflicting their politics and their financial interest in the mic. Investigative journalists at The Ferret (https://theferret.scot/) might take it on in Scotland, where there is already massive resentment of the way the media is controlled and undemocratic. Especially if the request came from the international community
Hen advertising fails to contribute to peace we should take advertising in our own hands.