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MTA revises ad standards, adopts disclaimer in wake of 'savage' posters

After a heated week within New York subway stations, the MTA announced it is modifying its advertising regulations.

After a heated week within New York subway stations, the MTA announced it is modifying its advertising regulations.

The MTA became embroiled in controversy after it posted non-commercial ads Monday, paid for by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, that referred to jihad as "savage."

Many of the city's cultural organizations denounced the ads as hate speech and political activist Mona Eltahawy was arrested Tuesday after attempting to spray-paint over the posters.

The MTA initially rejected the American Freedom Defense Initiative's bid for the ads, but lost the case on grounds of free speech in federal court, after the judge ruled it unconstitutional to prohibit ads containing "images or information that demean an individual or group of individuals on account of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, gender, age, disability or sexual orientation."

This morning, in an executive session, MTA officials modified advertising standards, which were last revised in 1997. They considered eliminating non-commercial ads entirely, but decided against it.

The MTA will, however, require a disclaimer on ads for viewpoints on "political, religious or moral issues or related matters" that reads:

This is a paid advertisement sponsored by [Sponsor]. The display of this advertisement does not imply MTA’s endorsement of any views expressed.



"We deplore such hate messages and remain hopeful that the vast majority of advertisers in our buses, subways, trains and stations will remain responsible and respectful of their audience," MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said.

The Straphangers Campaign, a riders advocacy group, applauded the MTA's decision to add a disclaimer, rather than eliminating non-commercial advertising as a "responsible approach respecting free speech." The group did, however, raise questions about how much space the disclaimer will take across the ad and how the MTA plans to determine whether an ad contains "political, religious or moral" content.

"We’re working on guidelines for the sizes, placements and formats of a disclaimer," Donovan told Metro. "We want it to be prominent and visible."

 
 
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