MBTA = Money Being Thrown Away? Again?

November 8, 2013

From our Or You Could Just Set Your Money on Fire desk

DownloadedFileIt’s been a good ten years since there was a serious legal rumpus over the MBTA’s rejection of an ad campaign. But from all preliminary indications, we’ve got a doozie in the works right now.

First, some background. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has a long history of a) banning controversial transit ads (everything from abortion rights to animal cruelty), b) winding up in court, and c) losing. A 2002 Boston Globe piece (via – hide the kids! – Cannabis News) called the roll:

Since 1974, the T has lost three federal suits brought by advertisers: Preterm Inc., an abortion clinic, in 1974; Citizens to End Animal Suffering and Exploitation, in 1992; and the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts, in 1994.


Add a fourth loss in 2002: Change the Climate sued over the MBTA’s refusal to run the group’s pro-marijuana ads. At which point the MBTA instituted what T spokesman Joe Pesaturo told us were “court-approved guidelines [that] haven’t been challenged.”

Until now.

This latest scuffle has a prologue: Two weeks ago, the T played peek-a-boo with an ad campaign placed by a pro-Palestinian advocacy group, The Committee for Peace in Israel and Palestine. From Boston magazine’s Boston Daily blog:




After receiving multiple complaints about large signs depicting a shrinking Palestinian landscape, which were put up around the MBTA system, the T’s advertising partner, Titan, pulled them down.

The ads went up around the transit system on Monday, and were paid for by The Committee for Peace in Israel and Palestine, a group that describes itself as “a diverse, community-based group dedicated to organizing activities and educational events that advance the cause of peace and justice for both Palestinians and Israelis.”


But almost as quickly the ads reappeared. An MBTA official said, “The ads are going back up. Their removal was the result of a miscommunication between the MBTA and its contractor, Titan. There was a breakdown in our established procedures for handling complaints about specific ads.”

Now we have the flipside to the Incredible Shrinking Palestine ads: An ad campaign from an “anti-Islamist advocacy group” that the MBTA has refused to accept.

From today’s Boston Globe:

Pro-Israel group sues MBTA over proposed ads

An anti-Islamist advocacy group is suing the MBTA after the transit agency rejected a proposed subway advertisement on the grounds that it was “demeaning or disparaging.”D.C.BusAd

The ad, funded by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a New York-based organization that seeks to combat a purported spread of Islamism in the United States, reads: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel; defeat Jihad.”

MBTA officials rejected the ad Monday on the basis that it violated their advertising guidelines, and today said they would be willing to change their stance if the activist group modifies the ad.

But lawyers for the organization say they have received no overtures from the MBTA, and wouldn’t be willing to change the advertisement anyway.



(The Boston Herald had nothing in today’s print edition, belatedly slapping an AP story on its website.)

The MBTA’s statement in response to the lawsuit:

The MBTA has reached out to the plaintiff in an attempt to resolve this matter.  The MBTA is asking that the message be modified to meet the requirements of the MBTA’s advertising standards.  The MBTA is not opposed to groups expressing their points-of-view, but it must be done in a respectful manner that recognizes and appreciates the cultural diversity of a public transit environment.


And spokesman Pesaturo kindly sent us the “court-approved ad guidelines” as he referred to them. Relevant section:

Advertising Standards

(a)        The MBTA intends that its facilities constitute nonpublic forums that are subject to the viewpoint-neutral restrictions set forth below. Certain forms of paid and unpaid advertising will not be permitted for placement or display on or in MBTA facilities.

(b)       The MBTA shall not display or maintain any advertisement that falls within one or more of the following categories:

(i)         Demeaning or disparaging. The advertisement contains material that demeans or disparages an individual or group of individuals. For purposes of determining whether an advertisement contains such material, the MBTA will determine whether a reasonably prudent person, knowledgeable of the MBTA’s ridership and using prevailing community standards, would believe that the advertisement contains material that ridicules or mocks, is abusive or hostile to, or debases the dignity or stature of, an individual or group of individuals.


Of course the thing about “court-approved” is which one? Might not be the court you land in this time.

So, to recap: Is the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority about to get involved in yet another money-pit defense of its pick-and-choose advertising policies? The T says it won’t lose this time.

Time will tell.

‘David’ Ad in David Daily

October 10, 2013

The Boston Herald has an unusual ad on Page 8 of today’s edition.


Picture 4


JNS – the Jewish News Service - describes itself this way:

JNS.org is an independent, non-profit, business resource and wire service covering Jewish news and Israel news for Jewish media throughout the English-speaking world.

We provide objective, non-partisan reporting from Jewish communities throughout the U.S., Europe, South America, South Africa, Australia and a wide array of Israel news. We also provide a rich assortment of photos and art, cultural news and features, commentary, and holiday-specific editorial packages around which our subscribers can sell seasonal-themed advertising.


But here’s how the Jewish Daily Forward describes it.

Fledgling Jewish News Service Rocks Boat With Strident Pro-Israel Message

Challenges JTA for Slice of Jewish Newspaper Market 

A new, right-leaning Jewish newswire is seeking to displace the Jewish Telegraphic Agency as the Associated Press of the Jewish media.w-jns-062713

Nearly two years after its launch, Jewish News Service is growing fast by promoting its pro-Israel perspective, offering ad-friendly special sections — and by giving it all away cheap.

“Some papers choose to use us versus anybody else because they think we are more respectful of Israel’s challenges,” said Russel Pergament, publisher of JNS. “Other editors prefer us because we’re less expensive. And I’ll take either.”


That would be old Boston hand Russel Pergament, one of the founders of the Tab chain of local weeklies. In a 2007 Boston Phoenix profile of Pergament (who had returned here to launch a new publication), Adam Reilly wrote, “Russel Pergament, the indefatigable publisher of BostonNOW, has been described as having ‘the metabolism of a white rat on amphetamines.’”

The Forward piece is long and involved – far too detailed to summarize here, but definitely worth reading. While you’re doing that, the hardreading staff will try to contact Pergament to ask, among other things, if he’ll be advertising in the Boston Globe anytime soon.


Boston Herald: The Official Newsletter of Scott Brown

November 23, 2012

Our feisty local tabloid has been keeping close tabs on ‘Round Town Scotty Brown (R-Indian Given).

Here’s the tally just from today (call it  his Turkey (Day) Trot), starting with a political piece:

Scott Brown intensifies support for Israel

U.S. Sen. Scott Brown drew a clear line in the sand yesterday in support of Israel, an indication of fierce congressional backing for America’s key Middle East ally no matter what the outcome of its tenuous Egypt-brokered cease-fire with the militant Hamas group.

“They have a right to defend themselves, and Hamas needs to stop,” said Brown, who serves on Senate committees on armed services and homeland security. “If we’re going to have any kind of lasting peace, then there needs to be a change of policy with a lot of the groups over there. They cannot think that Israel is going to be wiped off the face of the Earth. Iran needs to step back from that position and so does the rest of the region.”

When he made those comments Brown was at the Pine Street Inn (thus the apron), an appearance that got him into a human interest story, this one headlined “Pine Street misses ailing mayor.”

U.S. Sen. Scott Brown and his wife, Gail Huff, said they plan to make volunteering at Pine Street a family tradition.

“We brought our time, we brought a check, and I encourage others to do that,” Brown said. “I’m very thankful for my wife and kids, and I’m thankful I can be here again this year.”

But wait! There’s more!

There’s video!

Just to whet your appetite, a screen grab:






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