Controversy prompts Metro to ban all non-commercial ads

Controversy prompts Metro to ban all non-commercial ads
SEATTLE - The uproar over an inflammatory anti-Israel ad proposed for Metro buses has prompted King County officials to not only reject the ad but to temporarily ban any and all non-commercial ads on buses.

The new ban applies to any non-commercial ads, including political advertisements and ads by Planned Parenthood, the Humane Society and other non-commercial organizations.

King County Executive Dow Constantine said the county cannot favor one point of view over another.

As a result, he said, "the entire category of non-commercial advertising will be eliminated until a permanent policy can be completed that I can propose to the King County Council for adoption."

The policy change was initiated because an ad proposed for Metro buses had the potential to cause disruptions to Metro transit service, Constantine said.

The controversial ad reads "Israeli war crimes: your tax dollars at work." The Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign paid Metro $1,800 for the message to be featured in a dozen buses.

King County Council member Peter von Reichbauer said his office was swamped by complaints over the ad.

"It is an example of an attack on the state of Israel, using a picture that is designed to inflame people's feelings toward the state of Israel and by nature, against Jewish Americans," he said.

"The escalation of this issue from one of 12 local bus placards to a widespread and often vitriolic international debate introduces new and significant security concerns that compel reassessment," said Constantine.

King County Metro said it also is rejecting proposed advertising in response to the offending ad from the David Horowitz Freedom Center and the American Freedom Defense Initiative.

Officials said all of the ads posed "an unacceptable risk of harm to, disruption of, or interference with bus service."

The only exceptions to the new temporary ban are governmental ads that advance specific government purposes and non-commercial ads that met the previous policy and are already in place on buses.

Metro expects to develop a new permanent policy on non-commercial advertising by the end of January, which would then be presented to the King County Council for adoption.