Metro's Advertising Rules Allows Easy Censorship, Removal of Gay Pride Ad Latest

Jun 8, 2012 at 8:30 am
click to enlarge The Pride St. Louis banner as it appears on Metro's website. -
The Pride St. Louis banner as it appears on Metro's website.
In the end, Metro admits it screwed up. The St. Louis public transit agency should never have removed advertisements from its buses for this month's gay pride festival, PrideFest 2012.

It was unclear yesterday just how many Pride St. Louis advertisements disappeared from Metro buses this week after a transit employee questioned whether the banners violated the agency's advertising policy. A Metro spokeswoman described the removal of the ads as a miscommunication and promised they'd be back on buses a.s.a.p.

As Riverfront Times has reported before, self-censorship of advertisements by Metro is nothing new thanks to the agency's overly broad restrictions.

In 2010 the transit agency pulled ads for Soulard's Octoberfest much to the dismay of the beer festival's organizers. And while the Octoberfest banners did contain copious amounts of cleavage that could perhaps be interpreted to violate Metro's advertising policy No. 11 (prohibiting "nudity...or materials which otherwise depict sexual activities, conduct, excitement, or sadomasochistic abuse") its unknown how the relatively tame PrideFest banner could offend Metro.

But then when you take a look at Metro's lengthy list of sixteen (!) restrictions in its "Advertising Standards and Guidelines", it becomes clear that it can ban nearly any advertisement. Prohibited from Metro's buses and MetroLink are any ads dealing with politics, tobacco, "adult" entertainment and advertisements containing graphic violence or a message intending to mock or demean a religious or ethnic group.

Then there is restriction No. 14: "Metro shall not display or maintain any advertisement that contains material which is likely to offend, discomfort, or annoy Metro customers, or make them feel unwelcome, unsafe, or uncomfortable."

Talk about a catch-all! Would an ad for PrideFest offend, discomfort or annoy a homophobe? Maybe. But does that mean it needs to be banned? Far from it.