Reuters reverses ban on outdoor religious messages

Published December 1, 2003

International media giant Reuters has reversed an earlier refusal to allow an American denomination to broadcast messages of hope, peace and reconciliation to millions of persons who were expected to travel through New York City’s Times Square during the busy Thanksgiving holiday period. In an Oct. 28 letter to Rev. Larry Hollon, head of United Methodist Communications which administers the denomination’s $21 million media campaign agency, Reuters chief executive Thomas H. Glocer said he agreed with Mr. Hollon that the denomination should have “the same access to commercial space as any other organization.” Mr. Glocer indicated that Reuters will move toward permitting “advertisement by religious organizations, subject to certain limitations.” The Reuters executive wrote that his company would not object to religious groups using the space, “provided it is made clear that the material in question is paid advertising and that there is no possibility of confusion with our news output.” Mr. Hollon had protested Reuters’ refusal to honor a Sept. 23 contract with Outdoor Television Network Limited of Toronto for space on Reuters’ 28-floor, 450 square-metre electronic billboard system. The site, which Reuters’ Web site indicates is viewed by 1.5 million people daily, has been characterized as the centerpiece of New York ‘s Times Square. The most recent United Methodist television ad, “The Gift” was scheduled to run on the display’s central billboard 10 times daily Nov. 17-30. Additional images from the denomination’s Igniting Ministry media advertising campaign were to be featured. After the initial denial of space and protests from United Methodist Communications, Reuters issued an apology for a misunderstanding between its outdoor advertising agency and the parent company. The television commercials are a major component of Igniting Ministry, the denomination’s four-year U.S. media campaign. The denomination has 10 million members in the United States, Africa, Asia and Europe.


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