The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is expected to pass a resolution at a board meeting Wednesday banning all political advertising on its subways and buses after the agency's finance committee approved it earlier this week. The move comes after a judge allowed a pro-Israel group to display an advertisement with a phrase, "Hamas Killing Jews," on New York City's buses.
The MTA said such advertisements accounted for less than $1 million of its annual advertising revenue of $138 million, leading to the approval of the ban by the finance committee. The decision was prompted by security concerns, the Associated Press (AP) reported. Several other cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia have already banned political advertisements on public transit.
"Advertisements expressing viewpoint messages, regardless of the viewpoint being expressed, would no longer be accepted," Jerome Page, MTA's general counsel, told the committee on Monday, according to the AP.
MTA board member Charles Moerdler hailed the cash-strapped MTA's decision. "Hateful speech, with its odious appeal to intolerance, is the incendiary that ignites violence and ultimately destroys free and democratic institutions,” he said, the AP reported.
However, board member Allen Cappelli said the agency should not take away the right of free speech just because a few "hateful people" tried to take advantage of the right. "I am really sad to see management attempting to go down this road," Cappelli told the AP, adding: "I believe very strongly that the antidote to hateful speech is more free speech."
In August, the MTA had notified the group behind the controversial advertisement -- the American Freedom Defense Initiative -- that it was willing to display three of the four proposed ads, but not the one with the "killing Jews" caption. Following this, the group filed a lawsuit challenging the agency's decision.
The MTA had argued saying that the ad could incite violence, but Judge John Koeltl said last week that the ad was protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that allows free speech. Koeltl, however, gave the parties a month's time to appeal the ruling.
The advertisement showed a man who had covered his face and the caption next to him read: “Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah," attributed to Hamas MTV. The caption further said, "That's his Jihad. What's yours?"
Koeltl had said that the MTA and Chairman Thomas Prendergast "underestimate the tolerant quality of New Yorkers and overestimate the potential impact of these fleeting advertisements. It strains credulity to believe that New Yorkers would be incited to violence by ads that did not incite residents of Chicago and San Francisco."