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King County Metro catches heat for latest bus ad policy flap

After the story circulated and gained some national attention, Metro relented, and said it would allow the ads, which are sponsored by the non-profit group TAPAmerica.org. - Courtesy photo
After the story circulated and gained some national attention, Metro relented, and said it would allow the ads, which are sponsored by the non-profit group TAPAmerica.org.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

King County Metro came under fire last week, after initially saying it would not allow ads on buses that urged people to “Buy American” and “Shop Locally.”

After the story circulated and gained some national attention, Metro relented, and said it would allow the ads, which are sponsored by the non-profit group TAPAmerica.org.

Metro’s initial refusal stemmed from a policy enacted in 2010, in which it banned “public issue advertising expressing or advocating an opinion, position or viewpoint on matters of public debate about economic, political, religious or social issues.”

This policy was put in place after a pro-Palestine group attempted to buy ads on Metro buses depicting Israel and the Israeli people as war criminals.

Back in August, Metro stood firm on the policy when it came to ads for King County Public Health’s “Let’s Do This King County” campaign. Those ads, which had a young girl asking why there aren’t more fruits and vegetables in corner stores, and why there aren’t more cigarette smoke-free zones in local neighborhoods, were considered not in compliance with the Metro policy.

In August, Metro told local news affiliate Q13 Fox that the Let’s Do this King County ads weren’t allowed because “ads submitted for the Let’s Do This King County campaign express an opinion on smoking in public places and how grocery store owners should stock their stores. Neither complies with section 6.2.2 of the transit advertising policy, and so Metro declined to run the ads. Metro is applying the policy consistently, and will not accept ads that express opinions on matters of public debate.”

In this most recent tiff, Metro general manager Kevin Desmond said in an emailed statement that the “Buy American” and “Shop Locally” focus of TAPAmerica’s ads “do not express an opinion about a public issue, as prohibited by our policy, but rather is a promotion of the sale of goods.”

According to reports, TAP America founder Mark Bloome is pleased with the reversal on the decision, but was confounded by the initial decision.

“We cannot comprehend how they came to the conclusion in the first place,” he said.

Now that his group has the go-ahead to run the ads on Metro buses, Bloome actually said TAP America may not need to run them.

Because of the controversy caused by the initial decision, Bloome has said that other groups have offered to have his organization’s ads run for free.

 

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