Youth radio hammered over World Trade Centre digital photo

Digitally-enhanced photographs are becoming a popular feature of many consumer Web sites, with uses ranging from marketing and promotion to reader competitions. However, the use of a particularly sensitive image to promote a branding exercise for Australia's publicly-funded youth radio network has sparked outrage, fuelled by articles and polls run on some of the country's dominant news Web sites.

Digitally-enhanced photographs are becoming a popular feature of many consumer Web sites, with uses ranging from marketing and promotion to reader competitions. However, the use of a particularly sensitive image to promote a branding exercise for Australia's publicly-funded youth radio network has sparked outrage, fuelled by articles and polls run on some of the country's dominant news Web sites.

To promote a Beat the Drum competition -- a contest whereby listeners are encouraged to display the network's logo in prominent places -- Triple J posted on its Web site an image of the logo strung between the still-standing twin towers of the World Trade Centre.

The image was one of six digitally enhanced photographs of world icons, such as the Sydney Opera House and the Eiffel Tower in Paris, adorned with the drum logo.

However, use of the image has sparked outrage, with the News Ltd site news.com.au and the Publishing and Broadcasting's ecorp--Microsoft venture ninemsn.com.au running articles and polls on the radio network's move. Both polls ask whether the move is "insensitive". By early afternoon, on both polls, the yes responses outweigh the no replies by a small margin.

A source inside Triple J told ZDNet Australia   said the photos were not placed in the Web site to get more traffic or feedback from people or to be "provocative."

Instead, they were aiming to "encourage participants to think big for the competition."

The competition requires participants to take the drum logo and "expose it to as many people as possible as creatively as possible."

Triple J marketing manager Louis Rogers told ZDNet Australia  that as far as they knew there was only one person who complained about the image since it was posted on Friday. Rogers said they do not agree with the complainant's position and that they will not be taking the photo down.

"The purpose was to stimulate creativity in the minds of triple J's listeners, and to acknowledge the unlimited resourcefulness of our audience," Rogers said.

Rogers said the digitally altered photo was created internally and the station's management was aware that the twin towers were being used as a promotion.

The managing director of interface designing company Hiser Group, Susan Wolfe, said Triple J's use of the twin towers photo was "really poor taste and very tacky."

"It's very inappropriate. You would think their marketing folks would filter this sort of thing. I think it would be the right thing to do to take it down since all the other digitally altered photos already get the point across," Wolfe said.

Wolfe added that with people having the tools to play around with photos, it is very easy to alter images and use them in Web sites. However, she said, these images should also adhere to legal limits and, on this case, use images that are not emotionally charged.

The use of digital photographs is a popular tool among many leading Web sites. The football sub-site of leading United Kingdom news Web site Guardian Unlimited is one, frequently asking readers to send in digitally doctored photographs of major football personalities.

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