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Presidential candidate Bill Bradley has plenty of issues (taxes, healthcare) he could highlight as his popularity grows and his campaign picks up steam.

But the former U.S. senator from New Jersey, an increasingly viable rival to Vice President Al Gore for the Democratic nomination, is reiterating his determination to make inequities in minority media and advertising a focus of his presidential push.

In an appearance Sept. 18 in Washington before the Madison Avenue Initiative of the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network -- his second appearance before a Sharpton group in less than a month -- Sen. Bradley said government agencies and marketers need to improve their track record with regard to minority agencies and media. In a Bradley administration, he said, the pressure to do that would be intense.


Sen. Bradley also said he intends to push for marketers to increase their use of minority media and agencies during meetings he holds with corporate leaders as part of his campaign.

"What is in operation here is a blocked sensitivity, a willing ignorance that things are going the wrong way . . . We have to change that," Sen. Bradley told his receptive audience.

"If you have a product you want to sell and the No. 1 station in a market is an African-American station and you are paying the No. 5 and No. 6 station more than you are paying the African-American station, please explain that," he added.

In a one-on-one interview after the speech, Sen. Bradley told Advertising Age he sees the advertising issue as a symptom of a broader race relations problem in America.

"It has ripple effects through a very wide part of the American community," he said. "I think that advertising is enormously important.

"Some of the brightest people in America are advertisers. They understand how to communicate with people. They can be a part of the solution. I see this as a way to amplify the values that emanate from the [Madison Avenue] Initiative."

Sen. Bradley told the group he believes advertising inequities are quickly curable if enough light is shed on them.


"I think that simply bringing the facts out" can help, he said. "It is an issue that is indisputable even to someone skeptical because the only position you can take in defense of it is that you want it that way, and nobody wants it that way."

Sen. Bradley said that if he's the Democratic nominee, the Democratic National Committee will hire a minority agency as well as a general-market shop.

On a separate front, the candidate suggested that consolidation in the radio industry is hurting listeners.

"You can't even listen to FM stations and switch to get music anymore," he said. "They all have got their ads at the same time."

The Rev. Sharpton said that although Sen. Bradley is the first candidate to appear before his group, he intends to ask all the presidential contenders to explain their views on minority media and advertising. His goal is to keep the issue front and center as the campaign gets under way.

"We are going to ask all presidential candidates to address apartheid in advertising," the Rev. Sharpton said.


Sen. Bradley also said that as president, he would take immediate steps to see that minority ad agencies and media get contracts.

Minority media executives and some minority agency executives have complained that government agencies, especially the Census Bureau and White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, aren't doing enough to use minority agencies and buy minority media.

At a recent news conference that included the Rev. Sharpton, Jake Oliver, president of the National Newspaper Publishers Association -- which represents a group of African-American papers -- criticized Barry McCaffrey, the director of the White House anti-drug office.

"Gen. McCaffrey is the greatest insult since Bull Conner," said Mr. Oliver, referring to the notorious segregrationist police chief who loosed dogs on civil rights workers.

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick (D., Mich.) said a General Accounting Office probe into the government's purchase of minority advertising in several federal agencies is under way and due to be completed early next year.

Rep. Kilpatrick and the Rev. Sharpton have been especially vocal about figures from the congresswoman that they say show the anti-drug office is targeting more money at Hispanics than African-Americans. The anti-drug office disputes those

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