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Times Square Billboard Battle

An anti-war group claims media giant Clear Channel Communications is unfairly trying to block it from displaying a billboard in Times Square opposing the Iraq war.

The group, which calls itself Project Billboard, says it agreed to pay Clear Channel $368,000 to show the billboard for three months — from Aug. 2 until Election Day, November 2 — on the side of a hotel at 45th Street and Broadway.

The billboard, 69 feet by 44 feet, was to show a stylized bomb and fuse, decorated in stars and stripes, above the message, "Democracy is best taught by example, not by war."

But when Clear Channel learned of the intended message, the company labeled the message distasteful and blocked the anti-war group from displaying it, according to papers filed in Manhattan federal court.

The contract allows Clear Channel, which owns the billboard space, to revoke the billboard if it is obscene, "misleading or deceptive" or "offensive to the moral standards of the community," court papers say.

Project Billboard planned to ask a federal judge Tuesday to force Clear Channel to allow the sign to go up.

Paul Meyer, president and chief executive officer of Clear Channel, told The New York Times his company objected not to the sign's text but to the image of the bomb.

But the anti-war group claims Clear Channel also rejected modified versions of the billboard, including one that replaced the bomb with a dove, saying it would not allow any reference to war.

Project Billboard noted in court papers that Times Square already includes many references to war, most prominently in large news "zippers," and even is home to an armed forces recruiting station.

Trying to head off any argument that the sign would be distasteful, the anti-war group said in court papers that Times Square also includes "images of scantily clad models, some in evocative poses."

Clear Channel, the nation's largest radio chain, has been accused of promoting right-wing politics and banning artists — including the Dixie Chicks, whose lead singer disparaged President George W. Bush — with whom it disagrees.

The company is a major donor to Republican political candidates.

But the company denies banning the Dixie Chicks from airplay and says pro-war rallies held by some stations during the Iraq war were the work of individual radio hosts and managers, rather than a corporate directive.

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