September 4, 2003

Bush Administration Allows Corporate Advertising on the National Mall

The Washington Post reports this morning that for the very first time, advertising, or as it will be called tonight to skirt the age-old rules "sponsor recognition," will be allowed on the Mall.

"Officials at the Park Service concede that the televised concert and game, with commercials, is unprecedented for an agency whose regulations ban commercial uses of the Mall. But they say relaxing the rules is justified by the unique nature of the NFL program.

"'This is the first time the Park Service has had a proposal of this magnitude," said Bill Line, a spokesman for the agency's national capital region. 'This is different from advertising; these are sponsor recognition. . . . The NFL is turning to other sponsors to generate the money necessary to put on this event.'"

"The decision also allows the National Football League to show tonight's season opener between the Redskins and the New York Jets, including commercials, on Jumbotron screens that will be set up between Third and 14th streets NW. National Park Service officials had determined last week that only public service announcements could be aired on the Mall.
"Allowing the Mall and its monuments to be used for commercial purposes has long been a sensitive issue. The decision to embrace the NFL celebration has angered several groups, including some whose weekly protests have been displaced and who are familiar with the many restrictions imposed by the Park Service.

"'I think they're violating their guidelines,' said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a lawyer with Partnership for Civil Justice who has represented protesters planning large demonstrations on the Mall. 'To be turning the Mall into a billboard is, I think, what all the people would recognize as a violation of the stewardship of the Park Service.'"

"Verheyden-Hilliard said that in some past demonstrations, police officers have threatened to arrest protesters who were distributing T-shirts or other material. "We didn't know they simply needed to get themselves corporate sponsorship by Coors," she said.

"Charles Atherton, secretary of the Commission of Fine Arts, the federal panel that oversees aesthetics in ceremonial Washington, said the NFL event has crossed the line of excessive commercialism. 'It's grown now beyond a reasonable amount of equipment and advertising,' he said. 'I would say there's not a trace of any dignity to that space. It's just a midway.'"

What big business wants, big business gets from this administration.


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