Miami-Dade Transit Officials Explain GTA IV Ad Ban Decision (sort of...)

May 6, 2008 -
It took a few days, but GamePolitics has tracked down some background on the process which led Miami-Dade Transit (MDT) officials to pull ads for Grand Theft Auto IV.

As we reported late last month, the South Florida transit agency yanked GTA IV ads from bus shelters following pressure by anti-game attorney Jack Thompson.

While following up on this story GP communicated with MDT Deputy Director Hugh Chen and Marketing Director Michael DeCossio. It was media relations official Manuel Palmiero, however, who ultimately supplied the information below. What follows are GP's question, MDT's verbatim answers and a few bits of commentary:

GP: The GTA IV ads themselves are inoffensive. Is Miami-Dade Transit making a value judgment as to the underlying product? If so, this judgment is based on…?

MDT: The Miami-Dade County Commission has adopted three resolutions in the last five years dealing with violent video games -- R-1447-03, R-248-04 and R-573-06. You may look up all three at www.miamidade.gov/govaction/searchleg.asp?Action=searchleg.

The first resolution specifically condemned the “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City” video game for its “hate-filled messages" and for appearing “to encourage or condone violence against ethnic minorities” and called on retailers to remove the game from their shelves. The other two condemned violent video games in general and urged retailers not to make such games available to minors. 

Miami-Dade Transit is a department of Miami-Dade County and as such follows the policies set by the Miami-Dade County Commission and Mayor.

(GP comment: This seems a rather bureaucratic justification. None of the three resolutions address public transit. Nor do they direct county agencies to take a hands-off posture with regard to video games. Nor does MDT answer the question as to whether they made a value judgment concerning GTA IV, although it seems obvious that they did.)

GP: Which official made the final decision to remove the ads?
 
MDT: After receiving and evaluating the request for removal of the ads, MDT staff made the recommendation to remove them.  [Ad company] Cemusa was instructed to remove the ads last Friday, April 25.

(GP: we received this info from MDT on Friday, May 2nd)
 
GP: Is MDT familiar with Change the Climate vs MBTA, in which the US First Circuit Court ruled that a quasi-governmental transit agency could not restrict ads based on viewpoint?
 
MDT: Miami-Dade Transit is a department of Miami-Dade County and as such is a unit of County government, not a quasi-governmental transit agency.

(GP comment: This answer is puzzling. The First Circuit Court ruled that it is unconstitutional for a quasi-governmental agency to restrict free speech. Since MDT is organized as a full-fledged unit of government, it has at least as much - and probably more - of an obligation not to restrict free speech. Nor does the answer acknowledge the Change the Climate case.)

GP: Is MDT aware of [complainant] Mr. [Jack] Thompson’s longstanding contentious history with the publisher of this game [Take Two Interactive], including his involvement on the plaintiff side in a pair of wrongful death lawsuits seeking $1.2 billion?
 
MDT: We were not aware of this information but it is not relevant to the matter at hand and would not have affected our decision to remove the ads.
 
GP: Other than Thompson’s, were any other complaints received about the ads?
 
MDT: We are not aware of any others to date.

GP:  Would you characterize MDT as a unit of government, as opposed to quasi-governmental? (I note the .gov website address)
 
MDT: As stated above, MDT is a department of Miami-Dade County government and therefore is a unit of government, not a quasi-governmental agency.

GP: What other types of ads are restricted? Alcohol? R-rated movies? How about a cable show along the lines of The Sopranos or Sex in the City? 

MDT: MDT's contract with CEMUSA lists several types of ads that are restricted, including:

-Advertising that contains traffic-related symbols or words like "Stop," Drive In" or "Danger" that are designed to distract vehicular traffic

-Ads containing immoral, lascivious or obscene material as well as ads promoting businesses engaged in any activity that requires that exclusion of minors

-Ads for alcoholic beverages
 
In addition, the contract states that MDT may "at its sole, absolute discretion" disallow any questionable ads, such as those that may violate community standards as we understand them based on our knowledge of the community and the feedback generated by certain types of ads in the past.

(GP comment: Now that Take Two has sued the Chicago Transit Authority over that agency's removal of GTA IV ads, a similar suit against MDT seems highly likely...)

Comments

You know, that pic to the left gives me an idea. How about a poster campaign plastered on to the side of the bus stops with a great big picture of JT. Under it would read...

The advertising previously on this bus stop for the videogame Grand Theft Auto IV has been removed by the MDT who caved to pressure from such individuals as Jack Thompson who believe that, like rock and roll and comic books, video games turn children into malevolent killers despite evidence to the contrary.

Jack Thompson is also currently facing disbarment in Florida.

This message brought to you by Gamers For Civil Liberties.

@ JackDon'tKnowJack: Okay, then, big guy, you win. You're way too smooth for me. By the way, you haven't posted in the last couple of hours. Are you still alive?

@ Shadow Darkman: Here's your award. You are officially the most retarded and unfunny contributor at GamePolitics. Slobber much?

@yowzers:

And kicking.

Why is Jack such an opponent of free speech/ freedom of expression? The makers of games have the right to put anything they want in games. And why isn't he attacking the movie industry? They put just as bad things, if not worse things into their art.
 
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Michael ChandraSo be smart, and if you want to be part of the good guys, separate yourself from the bad guys. Don't attack those upset you won't.09/18/2014 - 6:30am
Michael ChandraMeanwhile, Gamergate is tainted and wise people already use a different tag to defend decent arguments. Keeping it up is like going #KKK while arguing about PoC.09/18/2014 - 6:30am
Michael ChandraSo while claiming to be unfairly attacked for the actions of a selected few, you unfairly attack an entire crowd for the actions of a selected few? #notagamer #butahater09/18/2014 - 6:30am
james_fudgeQuiknkold: Let me ask you- how many of those 'gamers are dead' articles did you see here? Because apparently i'm part of some vast conspiracy.09/18/2014 - 5:18am
NeenekoAh, that old straw man. That is one of the ironies about the discussion, the whole point is showing how good people can still have problems with sexism and not realize it.09/17/2014 - 9:11pm
Andrew EisenYes, there have been a handful of op-eds suggesting that the term “gamer” has become tainted (two that I know of) but that’s the opinion of only a few. I've seen an equal number from those who disagree.09/17/2014 - 8:55pm
Andrew EisenExcept, you haven't provided a single example of a site that’s actually calling gamers a "collective of Sexist White Bigoted Basement Dwelling Manchildren."09/17/2014 - 8:55pm
TechnogeekIf you want to make the stereotype of gamers less painful, try calling people out when they do bad shit rather than handwave it away as "not all gamers". Even if it is a few bad apples, that'll still more than enough to spoil the barrel.09/17/2014 - 8:53pm
quiknkoldI'm not going to Sell Gamergate anymore. It can sell itself. But I will sell the integrity of the Gamer. That we are still good people, who create and donate to charitys, Who engage with those around us and just want to have a good time.09/17/2014 - 7:35pm
quiknkoldpeople should not be harrassed and punished for the actions of a few. I've always welcomed and accepted everybody who wanted to join in. Who wanted to make them, or play them. I love good strong female protagonists, and want more.09/17/2014 - 7:35pm
quiknkoldOne of the tennants of Gamergate is to stand up against Harrassment. That Gamers arent like those assholes. We can argue for days if the Sexism or Antifeminism or corruption is there or not, But the one thing I believe in and wear on my sleave is that09/17/2014 - 7:35pm
quiknkoldBut there were these websites, attacking me and people like me, for the actions of a few. and then others joined in on Twitter and other places. there was a hashtag that said "explain in 4 words a gamer" and it made me sick.09/17/2014 - 7:35pm
quiknkoldManchildren who are awful people and that the Identity of the Gamer should die. This hurt me personally. I've always identified as a Gamer. Even in my childhood years, I was a Gamer. All my friends are Gamers. Its one of the core parts of my identity.09/17/2014 - 7:34pm
quiknkoldUltimately, With the whole Gamergate thing, I jumped on it due to the harassment. A small number of assholes harrass Anita and Zoe, and then all the publications lumped together Gamers as this collective of Sexist White Bigoted Basement Dwelling09/17/2014 - 7:34pm
quiknkoldEZacharyKnight : Lemme ask you a question. We have people who cling to walls, people who fire lasers from their eyes, people who can shapeshift....and yet fabric needs to be upheld to RL physics?09/17/2014 - 6:54pm
james_fudgebody paint?09/17/2014 - 5:33pm
E. Zachary Knightquiknkold, I stand corrected on the buttcrack thing. Still, I know of no fabric that actually does that.09/17/2014 - 5:05pm
Andrew EisenSo... it's unethical to discuss the ethics surrounding public interest vs. personal privacy?09/17/2014 - 4:45pm
prh99The source for the game was just released not long ago, it's at https://github.com/keendreams/keen09/17/2014 - 4:43pm
prh99An Indiegogo champagin bought the rights to the early 90's game Keen Dreams to make it open source and release it on GOG etc. https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/let-s-get-keen-dreams-re-released-legally09/17/2014 - 4:42pm
 

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