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Media giant Clear Channel will promote benefits of biking

Posted by on August 20th, 2008 at 12:05 pm

Janet Bain
(Photo © J. Maus)

The Portland arm of media juggernaut Clear Channel is in the process of developing an educational series of messages that will help educate Oregonians about the benefits of biking to our communities and encourage more positive behavior on the roads.

The effort is being spearheaded by Janet Bain of Southwest Portland-based Clear Channel Radio. Clear Channel’s local radio stations (which also have active web presences) include K103fm, 1190KEX, KPOJ 620-AM, KQOL-105.9 and Z100.

I met with Bain last week to brainstorm about messaging ideas. During our meeting, I learned that she specializes in educational marketing programs and won an award for a recent campaign to increase the amount of free breakfasts served in Portland Public Schools by partnering with food vendors to help underwrite the program.

Bain’s heart is clearly in this effort and she is a believer that radio PSAs can have a positive impact. She said, “I love how radio can motivate people to take action,” and she’s had the results to prove it.

Currently, Bain is working to line up financial support from corporate partners and local businesses who are interested in reaching the nearly 750,000 people Clear Channel’s radio stations reach on a weekly basis.

Here’s a brief description (by Bain) of the current direction this campaign:

“With a target day of Spring 2009, supporters of the biking community, local business leaders and Clear Channel Radio will embark on an educational campaign that will educate the public about the positive benefits that biking has on our community, not only as a source of recreation for individuals and families, but as a way of moving safely throughout the city.”

I suggested that we avoid telling anyone how they should act and instead focus on educating people about the benefits of biking. My advice to Bain was to try and educate the community that bikes are a solution, not a problem. So far we’ve focused on the concept that “Bikes are Good for Our Community” and that they are an efficient (as in they can help relieve congestion), economical (they cause less wear and tear on our transportation system, etc…), and healthy way to get around.

Another idea we both liked was a message that says something like, “We all make mistakes, don’t let it turn into a tragedy”. I came up with that to try and capture the emotional instances that sometimes lead us to make bad decisions on the road.

Bain is excited about the potential of this campaign and she’s keeping an open mind both about refining the messages and about where funding partnerships might be found.

This effort could be an excellent opportunity for important messages about bikes and road behavior to reach a key demographic (people driving in their cars).

I’ll keep you posted as things move forward, and feel free to share your ideas. Bain says the campaign should be narrowed down to 3-4 key messages.

Also, if you’re a local business owner or if you have ideas on corporate partners who would like to help underwrite this campaign, contact Janet Bain at Clear Channel Radio in Portland, (503) 323-6586 or janetbain [at] clearchannel [dot] com.


[Editor's Note: Please understand that we are asking for your input and all the ideas above are just ideas at this point. No final decisions about messaging have been made. Let's see if we can come up with some great messages to suggest to Ms. Bain.]

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  • Donald August 20, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    \”Clear Channel’s local radio stations (which also have active web presences) include K103fm, 1190KEX, KPOJ 620-AM, KQOL-105.9 and Z100.\”

    Media conglomerates are bad for democracy.

    Don\’t feed the beast.

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  • RMH August 20, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    I\’m not exactly sure how free public service announcements on cycling \”feed the beast\”. Clear Channel will not reap a single dime of profit from the cycling ads. You can rest easy on that one. If \”the beast\” wants to help our community, I\’m all for it.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) August 20, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    \”Media conglomerates are bad for democracy… Don’t feed the beast.\”

    I hear you Donald and I agree that big media corporations can be a bad thing… but I would stop short of writing this off as \”feeding the beast\”. It feels more to me like sharing some of the food and teaching the beast how to play nicely with the other animals.

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  • Donald August 20, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    Fair enough.

    Sorry, guys.

    My lizard brain took control of the keyboard when my knee jerked.

    Carry on…

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  • bArbaroo August 20, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    I have talked with Janet about this project too and I also believe her heart is in the right place. She really does care about the community and although she works for a big conglomerate, she is an individual working to make this a better community. I for one am happy to cheer her on, not judge her or her work based on her Clear Channel connection.
    I know her last campaign really made a difference – focused on getting hot breakfast to low-income children – and I look to seeing what she produces.

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  • Brad August 20, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Can we have a BikePortland corollary to \”Godwin\’s Law\” (where any debate or argument eventually degenerates to someone being labeled or compared to the Nazis)?

    \”Hey! I sold my old cross bike on eBay for $500!\”

    \”You capitalist bastard!!! You should have given it to the CCC for free you money grubbing POS!!!!!\”

    Intelligent discourse is dead. Sigh…

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  • solid gold August 20, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    how about \”Is getting there 20 seconds faster worth someone\’s life?\”

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  • Brad August 20, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    PEOPLE drive cars. PEOPLE ride bikes. Respect the rights of ALL PEOPLE on our roads!

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  • Bryan August 20, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    Ride your bike on those midnight jaunts to cut down Clear Channel\’s unsightly billboards.

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  • Le-oh! August 20, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    Something lost amongst all this is the fact that Clear Channel is targeting what is most likely the majority of their listeners in doing this… and if they succeed, they lose a rather large portion of their audience. I know that ever since I went car-free, I have very rarely ever listened to the radio, especially Clear Channel stations which are clearly designed for people not wanting to pay attention to a songlist longer than, say, 20 minutes or so.

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  • Anonymous August 20, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    I like the approach of emphasizing that having members of the community cycling benefits those who don\’t. I would see some benefit in some basic education PSAs too, though. Such as how to handle bike boxes, not to drive in the bike lane prior to turning right, taking a second to check over the shoulder before turning right, etc. I\’ve known Janet for years, I think she\’s a great partner for this kind of effort.

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  • Anonymous August 20, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    @#9
    I don\’t think success means listners will go car free and stop listening to the radio. To me, this campaign would be successful if drivers gain a greater understanding of, and perhaps empathy for, cyclists.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) August 20, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    \”I like the approach of emphasizing that having members of the community cycling benefits those who don’t\”

    That\’s exactly my thinking.

    My concern is that many people who are not savvy to the bike scene are only getting negative or incorrect messages about biking and bikers…like, We are militants who hate car drivers no matter what; we are naked biking nuts who crowd TriMet trains; We want respect but we all run red lights.; etc.. etc… etc…

    my hope is for some messages that can counter those perceptions and let folks know that we are the solution, not the problem, and that more bikes on the road is a great/exciting/fantastic/wonderful thing for our city!

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  • Austin Ramsland August 20, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    Um. . . to get back to the messages, I think that you are off to a really good start.

    “Bikes are Good for Our Community” and “We all make mistakes, don’t let it turn into a tragedy” are personal, ties the message to the larger community, and are easily digestible.

    I think that they strike just the right tone and don\’t really introduce anything new or drastic.

    Along those lines, I have always wondered why we haven\’t appropriated the \”Start Seeing Motorcycles\” and turned it into \”Start Seeing Cyclists.\” Its a message everyone already knows – why not use it?

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  • KT August 20, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    I\’d like to see some PSAs that educate ALL users of the road to their responsibilities.

    Or some PSAs that emphasize that in Oregon, bikes have a legal right to the roadway, whether in a bike lane or not.

    Or some PSAs that educate the beginning bike user to some important facts: ride with traffic. Get front and rear lights. Be visible. Be aware of your surroundings. Obey the rules of the road. That sort of thing.

    Please don\’t harp on the ol \”wear a helmet\” line; while it\’s a good idea to wear one, it\’s not the law for people over 17 to wear one.

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  • conehead August 20, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    Clear Channel loves Bicycles!

    In 2004, Clear Channel was sued by a San Francisco, California man for charging a mandatory parking fee on every ticket sold for a venue, whether the person purchasing the ticket was driving alone, car-pooling, or using public transportation. This has not been resolved by Clear Channel or Live Nation, its successor.

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  • BURR August 20, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    a PSA that conveys the concepts in ORS 814.430(2)(c) to motorists would be a great one to have out there

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  • WOBG August 20, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    Family, friends and neighbors are on the go–on bikes, in cars and on foot. Take care out there!

    More bikes means fewer cars in your way–and more parking, too.

    Bike riders are car drivers are walkers are TriMet riders…

    Bikes don\’t make potholes–smoother roads for you!

    More bikes means cleaner air for everyone.

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  • Icarus Falling August 20, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    RE: \”Clear Channel will not reap a single dime of profit from the cycling ads.\”

    This could not be farther from the truth.

    Why do you think such a large advertising based conglomerate is willing to run such a campaign? There are advertisements in PSA\’a from the companies paying for them. While subtle or not, this equals profit.

    While PSA\’s are good and informative, in reality most are simply cleverly disguised advertising campaigns. With a better message than just saying \”Buy our stuff\”, but advertising all the same.

    Clear Channel people obviously read news, blogs, etc. They certainly know there is quite a disdain for even hearing the words \”Clear Channel\” in many societal groups. especially here in Portland.

    Clear Channel is targeting a cycling city with PSA\’s, a city where there has been loud outspoken disdain for Clear Channel advertising tactics. Think of the fact that they want to support our efforts to have bike sharing. Support meaning \”plastering the bikes with advertising\”.

    Could PSA\’s not be a simply cleverly disguised ploy to garner public support for CC receiving contracts for programs such as bike sharing, etc.?

    I do not trust Clear Channel any farther than I can throw them.

    And they are huge. I couldn\’t even pick them up off the ground.

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  • Eileen August 20, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    So, Icarus, even if they\’re doing it to make money, does that make it bad?

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  • Matthew Denton August 20, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    Probably too complicated of a concept for a PSA but:

    When there is less of a quantity of a product available, economics says that the price should rise until people seek substitutes. How far the price rises for a given shortage is a function of how good the substitutes are, but the shortage has be dealt with, and the price has to rise until people switch, and unless people switch, then the price will continue to rise…

    So say, oil consumption in OPEC countries goes up, so there is less available to export to the US. The price of oil will rise until people start to use less. There are many ways to use less, some of them (staying home,) not much fun, some of them (bicycling,) lots of fun. But unless some people switch from driving to not driving, the price of oil would just continue to rise forever. So the fact that some people started bicycling when gasoline hit $4/gallon is exactly the reason that gasoline didn\’t hit $5/gallon… So encouraging more people to bicycle actually makes gasoline cheaper for the people that continue to drive.

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  • organic brian August 20, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    So, is CC finally following through with a promise from years ago to create a pro-cycling campaign as penance for the CC DJ\’s (multiple) who had advocated violence against cyclists on the air?

    So, all let\’s-get-on-a-bike and no content about cyclists rights and the law?

    If I had the ear of every CC listener, this is what I\’d be telling them:
    - bikes are the solution to high food prices (due to high fuel cost), catastrophic climate change, pollution, the danger of traffic, etc.
    - cyclists are legal traffic
    - cyclists, not your car door, have the right-of-way in bike lanes
    - it is a motorist\’s responsibility to know what is in their \”blind spot\” when turning/lane changing, not the cyclist\’s responsibility to scatter out of the way

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  • Matthew Denton August 20, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    As for the Clear Channel issue: Do most people hate them because they are a huge media conglomerate, which by it\’s nature makes it hard to have to have a well informed citizens that are required for a democracy, or, because they are share a political viewpoint near that of Faux news? And before you answer, name the other media conglomerates in this city, their relative size and their relative position on the left-right axis. (Most people can\’t, at least without looking it up.)

    The reason I bring this up: It seems like if they want to do some bicycle PSAs, it would help them on their slant, and that seems like a good thing, since most people\’s (mine included,) problems with ClearChannel are really about slant…

    The other thing: I don\’t think some bicycle PSAs on KBOO will do much for our cause, (since I imagine that many KBOO listeners ride bicycles already,) where as bicycle PSAs on 1190KEX or Z100 would be huge…

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  • Icarus Falling August 20, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    I did not say PSA\’s were bad, and I did not say Clear Channel\’s PSA\’s would be bad.

    I am saying Clear Channel is bad though.

    And I am definitely saying their PSA\’s will equal profit.

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  • Metal Cowboy August 20, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    I would love to meet with Janet about using some clear channel campaign messages to promote onemillionbicycles.org – Something like Join Us in taking America Bike To The Future 08/08/09. I\’ll get in touch with Janet. I\’ve emailed the national Clear Channel contacts already.

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  • Bill Board August 20, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    I don\’t like clear channel because they co-opt scenes that weren\’t theirs to begin with and then ruin them.

    it\’s like the new Clorox Green Works products…

    this is 100% about using bicycles as outdoor advertising space. those back wheel covers are quite large.

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  • Eileen August 20, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    Icarus, you could be right, but I suppose everyone deserves a chance to right the wrongs and make a fresh start. Maybe we should give them the benefit of the doubt.

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  • SkidMark August 20, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    It is not so much that ClearChannel is corporate or capitalist, making lots of money, etc. When the FCC decided to de-regulate, it gave ClearChannel the opportunity to own more media in one area, in some places giving them a monopoly. The danger of a media monopoly is only having one view of the world, one news source, one type of music or just \”popular\” music, etc. I am pretty sure this is most people\’s beef with ClearChannel. I tis why I am not their biggest fan.

    That said, I think ANY effort to educate riders ( like the ones coming at me in the bike lane, and riding on the sidewalk) should be applauded. I also think it is important to educate motorists: that it is their responsibility to look for cyclists the same way they look for pedestrians, motorcycles, big trucks, and Police vehicles, and that we do indeed belong on the street.

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  • FredLf August 20, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    I think one of the most important areas where motorist education about bicyclists rights and, more importantly, safety needs is the issue of lane use. i think most motorists believe that \”share the road\” means \”bikes have to move over\” to \”share\” the lane with the car. Thus, when they see a cyclist taking a traffic lane, they think that cyclist is hogging the road, not sharing it. In other words, the \’share the road\” message needs defining, narrowing and education.

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  • wsbob August 20, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    A controversial profit based corporation will always try to use schemes like this to improve their image; a pretty face, a socially responsible message. It\’s good spin. They do this to counter the nasty stuff they\’ve been responsible for and that\’s come to be associated with their existence.

    From McDonald\’s for example, the public has received Ronald McDonald Houses. There\’s some positive return there. Is it enough? Bottom line…before anything else, for-profit corporations are always out to make money for their shareholders, so that question will always be there.

    The public, especially that part of it confined to their cars morning and night listening to this corporations radio stations, needs education about biking as transportation and driving safely amidst people using bikes for that reason. Might as well encourage clearchannel in this endeavor.

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  • Martha R August 20, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    How about providing information about how to get around by bike?

    I\’m constantly amazed by the number of cyclists in Portland who don\’t have a bicycle map of the Portland metro area (or don\’t even know that such a map exists!), or who don\’t know how to trigger a traffic signal with their bikes, or who don\’t know that most downtown parking garages include bike racks…I could go on about all of those great things that make bicycling easier, but that aren\’t necessarily obvious to those who don\’t bike(yet).

    A series of informational pieces along the lines of, \”Did you know that (insert useful bikey how-to tidbit here)?\” would help bike-curious folks have a better first-time bike experience. It might also encourage more people to try getting around by bike.

    I\’m nervous about taking the angle that car drivers benefit when I bike because I\’m not competing with them for parking and I\’m not polluting, etc. It\’s a wierd message that seems to convey the wrong thing (\”you\’re benefiting even though you\’re stuck behind me because I\’m using an environmentally-friendly mode and you\’re not\”). I\’d much prefer a helpful, positive spin that gives people the tools to try riding a bike.

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  • Rocky6 August 21, 2008 at 5:18 am

    Clear Channel is running the bike-sharing program in DC. Part of the benefits the city received for giving the firm exclusive rights to bus-related advertising.

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  • Stochelo August 21, 2008 at 9:40 am

    This is great–the preaching, because CC has stations like KEX 1190 with Rush Limbaugh and Dr. Laura Swastika, will be going way, way outside the choir. Sure, they have the one liberal AM talk station in town (where River City Bicycles advertises) but they have more stations in the other direction.

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  • Donald August 21, 2008 at 11:19 am

    @Rocky6

    Do you possibly mean that CC is sponsoring the program? If they were indeed \”running\” it, then all the admin and attendant risk would be on them.

    Which I would find surprising.

    @Mssr. Denton

    It\’s a strong mixture of both. Opinions don\’t exist in black/white vacuum. I stand by my statement that centralization of media outlets is bad for democracy. Heck, I think it can be argued that it\’s bad for capitalism as well. I would hold these opinions regardless of any perceivable slant politcal or otherwise.

    What I didn\’t want to do was disrupt any meaningful conversation being attempted.

    So, good on the folks who are more tolerant than I.

    My thoughts on preparing food for the problem remain, however. I feel keeping the enemy close is one thing; providing it fodder to further its function is another.

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  • SkidMark August 21, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    Maybe the marketing types have discovered there is such a thing as \”niche markets\” and have decided to capitalize on them. If it means more diversity in programming then that\’s a good thing, right?

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  • joeb August 21, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    Really interesting comments. We are all burdened by our participation in society’s shortcomings. I look for alternatives to the offerings of monopolistic conglomerates as much as possible and fail probably more than 85% of the time.

    I have a question that is burning… when I donate to “Jerry’s Kid’s” at the Safeway checkout (no alternatives in Gresham), does Safeway get the tax benefit for my charity. That can’t happen right? How about tax benefits for PSAs?

    Anyway, I’m glad I had this little opportunity to vent.
    I smile that the KPOJ traffic report is brought to you by River City Bicycles.

    Now, back on topic, I am glad about this message and like the positive tone of Jonathan and Janet’s collaboration. This could be a really creative campaign. I like Martha R #31 comments regarding education about things that can improve the early experience of new and potential bikers.

    Life is entirely too automated. We stand up from our computer screen in an air conditioned cubicle and walk outside for a short distance in the last hour of heated summer air until we sit down again and lower a foot on the fuel feed of an air conditioned cabin, drive 38 minutes East, hit a button on the visor and drive unhindered into a dark rectangular room… and call it a day on the couch in front of the TV. But in our subconscious there is a nostalgic longing for childhood summer days before machines were available. One day, we discover that our 38 minute drive home is a 45 minute bike ride.

    Hmm, that looks suspiciously like one of those Kaiser Permanente PSAs. I actually enjoy the Kaiser advertising campaign even though it comes from a company that, I believe, has a primary intent on a Thrive!ing pharmaceutical industry.

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  • Jeff Ong August 22, 2008 at 8:51 am

    Yes, this does look a lot like the Kaiser spot. They\’re both greenwashing campaigns that attempt to scrub the dirty faces of some of our least appealing corporate citizens.

    What benefit does Clear Channel reap from this effort? How about getting discussed in a generally positive way in locations like Bike Portland, which would normally be completely dismissive towards them. You can bet that as they planned this campaign, \”dialoging with cycling community leaders\” shows up in the benefits side of the equation, not the cost side.

    It\’s fine if companies want to do this, but we don\’t have to disengage our critical faculties and embrace them as brothers just because they glance in our direction for thirty seconds before getting back to plugging CarToys and moaning about drive-time traffic.

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  • Rocky6 August 22, 2008 at 9:26 am

    @Donald,

    Good question on the matter of CC \”operating\” or \”sponsoring\” the DC bike share program.

    I\’m afraid I\’m not entirely sure, but I believe CC has taken a far more involved role than simply funding the program. For example, one of the key organizers of the program was a CC staffer, so it\’s not as simple as CC simply funding city employees to do it.

    Wish I knew more, sorry.

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  • Janet August 25, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    Wow, Jonathan … what passionate readers you have. I thought you did a nice job of summarizing our two-hour conversation and looking at the possibilities. I was glad to see the support from your readers … sorry that some completely missed the point.

    To clear up any misunderstandings for your readers, this idea is not about ‘us’. (CC, the media conglomerate that some of your readers refer to).

    It is about ‘you’ (those who use their bikes to move about the city … those who jump in their cars each day not fully aware that people are using our streets in different ways).

    It is about communicating a message (yes, an advertising message) to the hundreds of thousands of commuters who use the roads to commute about our city streets. Can you think of a better place to reach these people than in their cars, on the radio?

    BikePortland.org is a valuable resource for the biking community, but what about the approximately 1.3 million commuters that use our roads each day? How are they being reached to ensure our roads safe for everyone who uses them?

    It is my view that until you raise the awareness about the number of people using our roads and how they’re being used, little can happen.

    Radio, whether it’s Clear Channel, Entercom, CBS or KOBP, can reach these people … in their cars … where you’ll have the greatest chances of impacting them. A message communicated positively works much better than pointing fingers, assigning blame or judging a segment of the population, i.e. cyclist, motorists.

    My collaboration with Jonathan is on a local level, so rest assured that no CC mammoth will be involved … just 5 local stations here in Portland. I think Jonathan would agree that our success nationally, comes from the leadership that Portland continues to show as a city that works together to maintain the lifestyle we all enjoy here in the Northwest.

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  • postmoves August 25, 2008 at 10:09 pm

    Sounds all well and good Janet and I believe and support your stated intent, and do understand both the business and more emotional sides of the discussion; just a question:
    It seems to me that your assurances the CC giant would not be involved in any campaign is only a matter of happenstance, as at any time \’they\’ could come off high to direct any local effort, given the right directives (read CC\’s conservative christian or pro-corporate historical instances – just google it).
    And just how would you pacify the outdoor advertising arm of your company that has a disgruntled advertiser suffering from acts of vandalism tacitly supported by the extremist contingent of the biking community as witnessed on these very forums you seem to be courting for support? (as witnessed in the \’Eugene Billboard Spoofs Dodge Billboard\’ post)
    I support Jonathan, and generally believe him to be on message in terms of the quest for mutual respect, but think more effort should be exerted on sites such this to reinforce equality and respect as guided by laws, ethics and morals. There is a system, and as broken as it seems, true change comes from within, as an outside attack only brings defense.
    Additionally, I should say that I, as a business owner, would not directly spend a penny with Clear Channel based upon their greater corporate policies; much to my dismay, as I am a loyal POJ listener.

    Peace.

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  • wsbob August 25, 2008 at 10:43 pm

    Janet, thanks for personally checking in here on this thread and leaving a comment. Your words about the company\’s plans and intentions for this program were so very positive and upbeat, that it\’s close to impossible to find fault with them.

    At the same time you seem to be conveniently oblivious to the enormous power that big corporations hold, too often with dubious results, and the very attractive masks they often seek to hide behind. You\’re a real person, correct? Your photo above suggests this to be the case. Very beautiful too, I might add, and I hope you don\’t take offense at my saying so. But now, your image is also the face of mega-corporation ClearChannel\’s Portland public relations campaign.

    I really hope things work out well for everyone, but I would be far more comfortable if these bike supportive ads were initiated and sponsored by small, local companies that need the positive association far more than does the media giant.

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