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Blago Billboards Get Smiley Cover-Up

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    NEWSLETTERS

    kingbarksdale/Instagram

    Rod Blagojevich is getting a makeover.

    Merlin Media LLC has begun covering more than 200 billboards using the former governor's mug to advertise WIQI-FM/101.1 and the station's all-news format. The move comes in response to what the company calls listener reaction as well as Attorney Sheldon Sorosky's concern over a possible violation of Illinois' Right to Publicity Act.

    The legislation says a person's identity can't be used for commercial purposes without first getting written consent. Sorosky has said he doesn't believe Blagojevich, currently serving a 14-year prison sentence in Colorado, gave permission for the station to use his image.

    Blagojevich's face in the ad has been swapped for a yellow smiley face and a tuft of blue, Blago-style hair. The rest of the billboard, including the slogan "He never listens," remains the same.

    A spokesman for Merlin Media LLC told Crain's Chicago Business the company covered the billboards because some listeners called the ads insensitive.

    Sorosky also apparently sent a letter last month to Merlin Media asking for a meeting to discuss the Right to Publicity Act. Crain's points out the company responded by saying it's their First Amendment right to use the former governor's image.

    Merlin Media, headed by the Randy Michaels who resigned from the Tribune company, launched the news station format last August.