As police and city officials in Chicago deal with a rash of recent shooting incidents, the local Fox News affiliate has questioned the posting of ads for Grand Theft Auto IV on buses and buildings of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA).
And, just like that, CTA president Ron Huberman folded on the issue, telling Fox News through a representative that the ads would be removed.
It’s not the first time that Chicago’s buses have provided the setting for a GTA controversy. In 2004 Gov. Rod Blagojevich railed against transit ads for GTA San Andreas.
Over the years, GTA transit ads have come under fire in other cities as well. In 2006 Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and others forced the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) to pull ads for GTA Vice City Stories. The transit chief there justified his decision by issuing a policy which equates M-rated games with X-rated movies.
GamePolitics is awaiting comment from GTA IV publisher Take Two Interactive. We also sought comment from the ESA, which referred us back to T2.
GP: The GTA IV transit ads shown by Fox News depict neither violence nor sex. Does the CTA reject ads for R-rated movies? Suggestive or violent television programs?
As I’ve written before, the video game industry needs to assert its First Amendment rights in these cases, which essentially come down to selective censorship by quasi-governmental entities.
UPDATE: I should add that in 2003 a group called Change the Climate successfully sued the MBTA when it refused to run ads calling for a debate on marijuana laws. In that case, the U.S. First Circuit Court held that:
There is direct evidence through statements made by MBTA officials that the reason for rejecting the advertisements was actually a distaste for Change the Climate’s viewpoint.
This suspicion of viewpoint discrimination is deepened by the fact that the MBTA has run a number of ads promoting alcohol that are clearly more appealing to juveniles than the ads here.