Thursday, 4:30 PM
Letter criticizes Grand Theft Auto video game ad on T
By Globe Staff
The mayors of both Boston and Cambridge and almost 60 other community leaders singed a letter that was delivered to transit officials today demanding that advertising for a violent video game be pulled off subway trains.
The letter, spearheaded by an advocacy group called Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, blasted the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority for allowing the advertisements for the game "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories."
"At a time of escalating concerns about youth violence in the Boston area, it is unconscionable that the MBTA would feature advertising for a violent video game," the letter reads.
It is signed by Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, Cambridge Mayor Kenneth E. Reeves and others. The letter asks that all Grand Theft Auto billboards be immediately removed from MBTA property and that officials vow not to take advertisements for video games that the media industry deems unsuitable for children under the age of 17.
The MBTA released a statement this afternoon that said under the First Amendment's protection of free speech, transit officials can only scrutinize the images and content of the advertisement itself.
"As offensive as anyone may find the product being advertised, it's not the MBTA's role to regulate any products, whether they are movies, music, websites, books, or video games," according to statement released by MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo.
As evidence of First Amendment protection, Pesaturo pointed to a new campaign by the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts in which ads on MBTA subway lines ask for feedback from passengers whose bags have been searched under a new T security policy.
Grand Theft Auto encourages players to steal, murder and have sex with prostitutes. Billboards for the game have appeared on Green Line trains. The four-week campaign runs through Nov. 30 with ads on 100 Green Line street cars. It raised $114,000 for the MBTA.