Clear Channel's Women's Clinic Ad Ban An Exception In Wichita

Several media outlets in Wichita, Kansas, say they have no problem running ads for a local women's clinic that performs abortions whose radio ads were rejected by Clear Channel Radio for their supposed “divisive” content.

At least four radio and print outlets in Wichita have run similar ads for the South Wind Women's Center with no report of complaints, according to those overseeing the outlets.

Sarah Anderson, communications director for the Trust Women Foundation, which runs the Wichita clinic, confirmed that two ads were removed from three local Clear Channel FM radio stations on July 2, one day after first being broadcast.

The ads, which can be heard HERE and HERE, employ innocuous content about the facility, including that it  “was founded to reestablish full access to reproductive healthcare,” provides “high-quality medical care” and features board-certified physicians with “over 50 years of experience and dedication.”

According to Anderson, the foundation was informed that the ads had been pulled due to complaints to the station. Women, Action and The Media, a non-profit group that promotes women's rights and first reported the ads had been pulled, posted a statement reportedly issued by Wichita's Clear Channel General Manager Rob Burton this morning, which said: “As members of the Wichita community, KZSN has a responsibility to use our best judgment to ensure that advertising topics and content are as non-divisive as possible for our local audience.”  

But other media outlets in Wichita apparently believe that the center's ads are “non-divisive.”  Two music stations not owned by Clear Channel -- KFBZ, The Buzz 105.3; and KDGS, Power 93.5 - confirmed to Media Matters that they have agreed to run the ads.

Mark Yearout, sales manager for KFBZ and KDGS, stated: “They started in June on 105.3 and one will be on in August on 93.9, to my knowledge.”

Both Yearout and KFBZ and KDGS General Manager Jackie Wise said the ads had drawn no complaints from listeners. “There has been none,” Wise said.

Print ads for the clinic have also been published in the Liberty Press, a local lesbian and gay monthly newspaper, and the Wichita State University campus newspaper, The Sunflower, without complaints, according to staffers at both publications.

“We have been fine,” said Liberty Press Editor Kristi Parker, who confirmed that the clinic's ad has been in the past two monthly issues and will be in the upcoming August issue.  “I am kind of upset” at the Clear Channel stations, she later added.  “I realize they have the right to do business with whomever they want, but it doesn't seem fair to single them out.”

South Wind Women's Center opened in April 2013 in the same location where Dr. George Tiller had operated his own clinic. Tiller was shot to death in a Wichita church in May 2009 and had been under attack for years for his willingness to perform abortions in a state where such services still remain scarce. In 1985, his clinic was bombed and he was previously shot in both arms in 1993 by an abortion opponent.

He was also the target for years of an intense campaign of demagoguery by conservative media, including Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, who often referred to him as “Tiller the Killer.”

Through its Premiere Radio Networks affiliate, Clear Channel syndicates many of the top-rated conservative talk radio programs, including Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, who have had their share of controversial and sexist comments.

As Jezebel and Think Progress noted, in 2005, a Clear Channel television station in Utah rejected an anti-war ad that would have been broadcast during a visit of President George W. Bush.

Women, Action and The Media launched an online petition asking for signers to oppose Clear Channel's move to block ads for the Wichita clinic on July 26.

The petition, which had boasted more than 1,300 online signatures as of the morning of July 27, states:

I support women's health. Women deserve to know about and have access to comprehensive reproductive health care, which includes abortion care. You are infringing on freedom of speech and free enterprise. You are letting a vocal minority of anti-choice extremists make decisions for an entire community. Shame on you for discontinuing the South Wind Women's Center's radio ads. You are doing a disservice to women.

Calls to Wendy Goldberg, Clear Channel senior vice-president for communications, were referred to Clear Channel's Wichita General Manager Rob Burton, who did not respond.

Jaclyn Friedman, executive director of Women, Action and the Media, said such censorship of ads hurts women who have limited options for these services in Wichita.

“In a town like Wichita, in a small town, where there is a lot of religious right, women don't have access to information about getting reproductive care,” Friedman said. “A private company based on an arbitrary moral decision is preventing a wide swath of citizens from getting basic health care.”

She also pointed out that the South Wind Women's Center provides abortions as only a small part of its services, which also include medical counseling, birth control and numerous types of health screening.

“These kinds of clinics tend to provide mostly care that is not abortion care,” she said.