There has recently been comment via various local and national media, including postings on Continental Outdoor Media's ("Continental") web-site regarding the display and subsequent removal of an advertisement poster from a Continental billboard, the content of which was headed "Israeli Occupation of Palestine", and further alleged in the body copy "Israel's occupation of Palestine" is illegal under International law.

Continental's formal response thereto is as follows.-

Reasons causing the display of the advertisement poster

Continental received the advertisement poster copy for printing via a regular client's confectionary advertising holding renewal order.

Due to a breakdown in communication between the client and Continental, the advertisement was erroneously printed by a Continental sub-contracted printer and posted on one Continental Billboard. The cause of this miscommunication has been identified and steps have been taken to ensure that such miscommunication is not repeated.

Continental Management has met with the client whose bona fides are accepted and the matter now amicably resolved. The client has informed Continental that it is not just a confectionary manufacturer but also an unaccredited advertising agency and therefore will dispatch to Continental for display onto its billboards advertisements for various of its own clients. Continental will in future treat the client as an unaccredited advertising agency. Continental have to-date not had direct dealings with the Palestine Solidarity Alliance or The Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions Movement allegedly the originators of the poster campaign, other than through the client/unaccredited advertising agency, nor has Continental according to its records previously displayed any advertising on their behalf.

Removal of the advertisement copy on the Billboard

On posting of one of two advertisement posters received from the client, Continental received a caution from its posting sub-contractor that the copy in question could potentially be found contentious by sectors of the community. Upon subsequently reviewing the copy the management of Continental immediately instructed a hold on the advertisement poster not yet posted, and removal of the second already posted on a Continental billboard situated on Johannesburg City Council property. The reason being that the advertising poster copy in question was considered in conflict with inter alia the code of the South African Advertising Standard Authority, Continental's own Copy Code and the By-laws of the Johannesburg City Council, which govern the conditions under which right is granted to display Outdoor Advertising in the public space.

Further the advertisement copy was potentially in conflict with Continentals contract with the Johannesburg City Council, represented by the Johannesburg Property Company, with whom Continental holds its contract right for the tenure of the billboard in question on City land. The lease contract stipulates that Continental is prohibited from displaying, or allowing the display, of advertisements which are, inter alia, of a contentious nature. As indicated by the amount of complaints received and attention by a radio station call-in show, the copy had clearly been found contentious by sections of the community. The barrage of mail, e-mail and phone calls escalated and the matter has subsequently become the subject of 4 radio shows and has been featured in a number of press articles. The CEO of Continental made himself available to the media, for meetings, and public phone calls on the matter.

Continental Outdoor Media's Copy Code

Having traded in South Africa in its various guises for over 50 years, Continental as market leader in South Africa and a business trading in 14 countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, prides itself in offering a powerful outdoor advertising medium for the display of commercial products and services and the like and avoids abuse of the privilege granted it by the community to display advertisements on public streets by avoiding the display of political content, or any other content that could reasonably be viewed as offensive, controversial or contentious by any sector of the community, unless of course such political display is that provided by bona-fide licensed political parties in their respective jurisdictions.

Continental does not as press, radio and TV do, have an editorial department as it does not produce editorial content and consequently does not have the capability to adjudicate on copy outside of the normal commercial advertising realm. The company abides by and enforces the standards of the South African Advertising Standards Authority and provides no favour in terms of adherence to its strict policy. The company does however often have to take a position on the display of advertisement posters for alcohol products, those of a sexual nature and the like, in compliance with legislation and/or with Landlords and other contracts which may include schools, religious organisations, Government, Municipal and private organizations or private individuals.

Conclusion

Whilst Continental has been criticized for displaying the copy in some quarters and for taking it down in others, the company has taken the copy down of its own volition for the reasons already stated. Whilst the criticism and support has been voluminous, Continental takes no side on the issue but has done what it deems right and appropriate in the circumstance in compliance with terms of legislation, various codes of conduct and its contractual obligations to its clients and landlords.

Whilst many views and opinions have been received, which we recognise as the public's right, Continental have not received any undue pressure or threat from any sector of the community to either post the advertisement or remove it.

The views of Continental have subsequently been confirmed by an independent report prepared by the Association for Communication and Advertising Advisory Service (ACA). The opinion of the ACA was that the advertisement in question did not comply with certain requirements of the Advertising Standards Authority Code of Advertising Practice ("ASA Code").

The ACA, to whom Continental submitted the advertisement for an independent view, has subsequently advised that the copy in question does not comply with the ASA Code on a number of substantial counts. They have also confirmed that Continental has a duty to decline acceptance of any advertisement that does not comply with the ASA Code, vindicating the decision to take the copy down as appropriate and responsible.

In addition, the client had not complied with its contractual obligations towards Continental being, "that it will ensure that any advertisements posted complies with the ASA Code".

We trust that in the eyes of the broader public our position and action will be found reasonable.

The Board of Directors,

Continental Outdoor Media.