The Sacramento County Airport and the California Endowment

Jul 11, 2014

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The Sacramento International Airport features a wide range of amenities including various restaurants and shops, art displays, and a massage bar. The airport also rents scores of display cases for advertising throughout the terminals, including both static and multi-media displays. 

One of the advertisement cases is rented by the California Endowment, a non-profit foundation that seeks to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities throughout California. But when the endowment tried to display one of its advertisements in the space that it rents, the airport refused to allow it to do so, claiming that the advertisement was too political.  So instead of running these proposed ads, the Endowment is running this censored ad in the space it has rented.

This is wrong: under the state and federal constitutional protections for free speech, the government should not be discriminating against speech that seeks to inform Californians about public issues in favor of commercial advertising. As the California Supreme Court has put it, government rules that “perversely give preference to commercial advertising over nonmercantile messages” are offensive to the very purposes of free-speech rights. The Endowment has paid for its spot in the airport, and there is nothing about the rejected advertisement that would make it unsuitable for display in an airport that features not only scores of commercial advertisements of every type, but also numerous pieces of art that are meant to engage the travelers as they walk through the airport terminals, as well as shops and restaurants. 

The ACLU Foundation of Northern California has therefore contacted the Sacramento Airport Authority to request that it allow the Endowment to run its advertisement in the space it has paid for.  

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