Get Off the Bus, Gus! 

Citizens Try To Remove Savage From Tri-Met Ads

On a daily basis, Michael Savage spews venom at liberals, immigrants and, in his words, "sodomites." It is a public flogging listened to by millions--locally on KXL 750, "the home of the Oregon Ducks."

Earlier this year, Savage attempted to leverage this radio fame into a national TV show on MSNBC, but after he lambasted a caller as a "sodomite" and told the caller to "get AIDS and die," the network cancelled the show. Even so, his radio popularity remains unshaken and his smugly grinning face remains plastered across Tri-Met buses around Portland.

It is, say members from the local Coalition Against Hate Radio, an affront to decent society; and, as Tri-Met is sponsored by taxpayer money and local residents, a waste of our money.

"Michael Savage has the right to speak," announces a pamphlet from the Coalition, "but we don't have to pay for it." For the past several months, the Coalition has lobbied KXL to remove the ultra-conservative shock jock, but so far, they've made little headway.

"The beef with Tri-Met is it's a public place," says Rose with the Coalition, "and we feel like it's being hijacked." (The spokesperson for the Coalition asked that her real name be withheld after receiving a threatening phone call.)

But after being lobbied by the Coalition, Tri-Met essentially washed their hands of responsibility by directing the detractors towards Eugene-based Obie Media. Like other mass transit from Tampa to Sacramento, Tri-Met sub-contracts with Obie Media to provide billboards and placards.

Two weeks ago the Coalition took their fight to Obie Media, convincing executives from the marketing company to sit down and talk with them about removing Savage's advertising. But Rose said she was skeptical. Coalition representatives were ushered into one of Obie's conference rooms that had a string of paper dollar bill signs draped across the ceiling. "And we're there talking about social responsibility," Rose chuckled.

"The way that [Obie Media] look at it," Rose said after their initial meeting, "is that they are advertising the radio show, not the content." Legally speaking, such a distinction squarely places even the most venomous and hateful insults from Savage within the legal protection of the First Amendment. But ethically speaking, such rationale still left Obie Media and Tri-Met's collective asses hanging out the window.

Surprisingly, Obie Media contacted the Coalition last week and offered a solution: They will continue to handle KXL advertisements, but how about replacing Savage Radio with ads for another show?

That proposal has bounced back the responsibility for whether Savage stays or goes squarely into KXL and Tri-Met's courts, where, at press time it remains.

The campaign to remove Savage's advertisements on Tri-Met received additional leverage this past weekend when The Oregonian staff ran an editorial in Saturday's paper. That editorial urged that "the Ducks should not be sharing air space with the likes of Savage." Currently, KXL serves as the local radio station that airs University of Oregon football and basketball games. The editorial pointed out that UO students and faculty were similarly upset last year at KUGN in Eugene for airing both the sporting events and Savage. Due in part to petitioning from student and partly due to declining ad revenue, KUGN ultimately cancelled Savage.

But because the First Amendment forbids a public institution from using a contact to regulate expression, the UO is limited with what actions they can take to remove Savage from the airwaves. Like the Coalition hoping that Tri-Met will act with decency and remove bus ads, the UO can only hope that KXL will remove Savage by their own accord.

"[Savage] can say what wants," concludes Rose, "but we don't have to support it."

Anyone wishing to lobby Tri-Met to remove the Savage ads can contact the mass transit company at 243-7595 and express their opinion.

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