Reporting Bob Roberts
CHICAGO (CBS) — CTA buses and trains will no longer be rolling billboards for political campaigns or controversial policy issues.
The transit agency’s board Wednesday voted to bar political advertising, advertising dealing with public policy issues and ads for “:adult” or “mature” movies, videos, games or books.
Politicians have not made much use of CTA. A handful of judicial candidates used transit advertising last year, and you have to go back to 2009 to find the last controversial series of billboards, dealing with Israeli-Arab relations. But CTA President Forrest Claypool said each lawsuit that is filed – and there have been several – creates far more headaches than it is worth.
“We spend a lot of time and effort on lawyers’ fees dealing with the issues of what falls within and qualifies under the guidelines,” he said. “This streamlines the process in such a way that we remove those headaches, remove those costs, and keep it simple and clean.”
The policy applies to ads on the sides of trains and buses, inside trains and buses, at stations and bus stops and elsewhere on CTA property.
Issues are sure to remain on what falls within and outside the guidelines, however. As an example, CTA General Counsel Karen Seimetz (SY’-mets) said an ad for abortion services would be allowed, as would other health care ads, but someone who wished to buy advertising space protesting abortions would be barred.
CTA spokesman Brian Steele said future ads will be limited to three categories: commercial/promotional, governmental and public service advertising.
While he said all current advertising contracts will be honored, he said no ads currently displayed or “in the queue” would need to be grandfathered.
Steele said that in declaring itself a non-public forum, CTA is keeping up with First Amendment court rulings
The policy also bars ads for adult-themed or violent television shows, videos, games and books and incorporates long-standing bans in a variety of areas, including hate speech.
Claypool said political advertising accounted for less than $100,0o00 of the agency’s $20 million in annual advertising revenue.