Telecom Fight Sends Ads To Newspapers

By: Mark Fitzgerald

Every election, it seems, newspapers get a smaller and smaller share of campaign advertising. But this fall, post-election, papers in several states are benefiting from a new breed of campaign attack ads — pitting the giant local-phone-service provider SBC Communications Inc. against a coalition funded by long-distance providers such as the AT&T Corp. and WorldCom Inc.

“It’s been a very nice minibonanza,” said Bonnie J. Reicks, national advertising sales manager at the Daily Herald in Arlington Heights, outside Chicago. So far, SBC has run five full-page ads in the Daily Herald, while its opponent, identified as “Voices for Choices,” also has run five.

Peter Arnold, spokesman for Voices for Choices, said the newspaper ads are running in most state capitals served by SBC Ameritech and SBC Pacific Bell, as well as Washington, Chicago, San Francisco, and SBC’s hometown of San Antonio. “This is a company that has elevated double-talk to an art form, telling Wall Street one thing and regulators another,” Arnold said, capturing the flavor of the ads.

SBC will continue to run its ads as long as Voices for Choices stays on the attack, said SBC spokesman Selim Bingol: “Their ads are very rare, unusual, because they attack us by name. All we’re trying to do is protect our company’s brand.” The general theme of the SBC ads is that long-distance carriers discriminate against small towns and are freeloaders on an infrastructure that SBC built and maintains.

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