BECTU has written to venue and theatre operator Live Nation criticising its parent company for selling advertising space to the British National Party.
Live Nation, which is now Britain's largest theatre group, was four years ago spun off from ClearChannel, the multi-national communications giant which owns more than 200 steet-side advertising hoardings in the UK, and runs LED screens in London's Picadilly Circus.
ClearChannel has caused a political storm by agreeing to sell advertising space to the British National Party in the runup to the European and council elections on June 4th. Anti-facist group Searchlight has organised a postal protest against the move which it says has prompted thousands of complaints to the company, although ClearChannel disputes the actual numbers.
Live Nation owns many landmark UK theatres, including the Edinburgh Playhouse, Liverpool Empire, Torquay Princess, and several West End venues.
In a letter to Live Nation's UK President, BECTU's General Secretary outlines the concerns of members in many of the company's venues that their employer could be accused of being indirectly linked to the British National Party.
The sale of advertising space by ClearChannel runs counter to a cross-party condemnation of the BNP, with parties like UKIP and the Conservatives making strenuous efforts to distance themselves from the BNP's racist policies.
The union has called for ClearChannel to cancel the BNP's planned billboard advertising campaign, and join BECTU in condemning the party's activites.
This is not the first time that the BNP has caused controversy in the arts world. In 2007 the English National Ballet's principal dancer Simone Clarke was outed as a BNP member, leading to protests from numerous civil groups including BECTU.
Text of letter from BECTU to Live Nation:
28 May 2009
Live Nation UK
RE: British National Party Advertising
It has been brought to BECTU’s attention that the British National Party has, apparently, recently been sold substantial advertising space on Clear Channel Billboards around the UK. I am sure you will appreciate that the activities of the BNP are abhorrent to BECTU members, and, like a great many decent people everywhere, they would be deeply concerned at the prospect of commercial companies making profits on the back of such activities.
Equally, I am sure you will also appreciate that, given the recent corporate history of Live Nation and Clear Channel, there will be particular concern amongst those of our members employed by you. I have no doubt that they would wish to be reassured that their employer is in no way associated with, or condones any promotion of, the BNP.
I would therefore invite you to reassure our members on this, by joining with BECTU in condemning the activities of the BNP, and expressing your opposition to Clear Channel selling advertising space to them. I would hope that you would also call upon Clear Channel’s owners to condemn the BNP, and to withdraw from this arrangement immediately.