Business aviation group pulls ads from USA Toda
Dec 16, 2009
Posted by Dennis Schaal
The National Business Aviation Association has pulled its advertising from USA Today over a story alleging that more than half of federal grants to U.S. airports since 1998 went to projects that the FAA characterized as low priority.
The USA Today investigation, using records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, found: "More than $2 billion in low-priority funds has gone to airports used mostly by private jets and piston-engine planes, including $700 million for terminals. Pellston Regional Airport in Michigan used $7.5 million in federal funds to build a terminal with stone fireplaces and cathedral ceilings. The airport averages three departures a day."
The NBAA, in conjunction with the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, began a No Plane No Gain video and print advertising campaign in October to highlight the positive role business avaition plays in small and midsize municipalities across the country. Here's a sampling of the ads.
Dan Hubbard, a spokesman for NBAA, says of the decision to discontinue its advertising of the campaign in USA Today:
"We didn't discuss the decision with USA Today; as we said in our initial announcement, we simply decided it's time to stop spending advertising dollars with a newspaper that has demonstrated such an anti-general aviation bias in recent months. We've received positive feedback from NBAA Members about the wisdom of the decision."
And, here's a portion of the organization's Letter to the Editors of USA
"The kinds of projects your story calls into question often support airports in towns with little or no airline service - airports that provide a transportation lifeline for small businesses, schools, universities and other organizations, and serve as regional development engines that generate jobs and economic activity."
The letter continues: "It's unfortunate that your story overlooked these key facts, and failed to explain the many good reasons why investments in community airports provide a tremendous return to us all."
In recent months, business aviation has sort of become a fall guy for the recession and Wall Street largesse in a manner that parallels the way Las Vegas meetings and conventions have become a pariah.
People within and outside the aviation industry can legitimately debate the points made in the USA Today investigation about a lack of focus in airport grants and the NBAA's grievances.
But, you have to call into question the NBAA's tactics in pulling its ads from the national newspaper.
Yes, the NBAA has every right to do so.
However, a strong organization or company has to be bigger than that. It has to be able to take a hit and abstain from the temptation to use its advertising dollars to attempt to manipulate editorial coverage.
The NBAA certainly isn't a large advertiser for USA Today, and let's hope the publication wouldn't be swayed by an advertiser with more clout, either.
In addition, the No Plane No Gain campaign, which ran spots on CNN, FOX, MSNBC and in publications such as Roll Call, The Hill, Politico and USA Today, targeted a business and Washington, D.C., audience.
That audience will still be reading USA Today tomorrow morning - and this evening.
It might have been more astute for the NBAA to play off what it sees as biased editorial coverage in USA Today, and to use the association's advertisements in USA Today, and what it perceives as negative coverage, to draw more attention to its cause.
USA Today couldn't immediately be reached for comment on the controversy.