United Kingdom: Corporate censorship in public space

Artists Peter Kennard’s and Cat Phillips’ photomontage ‘Photo Op’ which depicts Tony Blair taking a selfportrait with his mobile phone was ‘banned’ from public display after the companies who own the advertising space, CBS Outdoor and JCDecaux, refused to allow the use the of the artwork in the advertising on any of their sites.


This is “a story exposing the absolute loss of democracy in British urban space: what the British public is allowed and not allowed to see in the streets,” wrote the New Statesman in an article on 22 October 2013.

The photomontage was part of an exhibition at the Imperial War Museum in Manchester, and the museum wanted to use it for an advertising campaign.

However, as CBS Outdoor and JCDecaux own the majority of the sites in Manchester (and according to a government report from 2011, 50-70 per cent of all the outdoor advertising sites in Britain), the Imperial War Museum were forced to scrap the entire campaign along with the Tony Blair ‘selfie’, and choose an image more to the corporations’ liking.

The reason CBS gave to the Imperial War Museum was that “they will not run anything ‘deemed to be political’ nor ‘involving explosions’ – on ‘public transport media’.”

JCDecaux declined to give a reason and refused to reconsider.

New Statesman – 22 October 2013:
A response from Peter Kennard and Cat Phillips: Censorship is flourishing in our “public spaces”
Their Tony Blair “selfie” was recently banned from public display after advertisers refused to display the image. Here Peter Kennard and Cat Phillips speak out about the censorship of their work

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