In Chicago: GTA IV Ads to Be Pulled From Buses as Transit Authority Caves to Pressure

April 21, 2008 -
As police and city officials in Chicago deal with a rash of recent shooting incidents, the local Fox News affiliate has questioned the posting of ads for Grand Theft Auto IV on buses and buildings of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA).

And, just like that, CTA president Ron Huberman folded on the issue, telling Fox News through a representative that the ads would be removed.

It's not the first time that Chicago's buses have provided the setting for a GTA controversy. In 2004 Gov. Rod Blagojevich railed against transit ads for GTA San Andreas.

Over the years, GTA transit ads have come under fire in other cities as well. In 2006 Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and others forced the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) to pull ads for GTA Vice City Stories. The transit chief there justified his decision by issuing a policy which equates M-rated games with X-rated movies.

In the past, GTA bus ads have also come under fire in Portland, Oregon and Denver.

GamePolitics is awaiting comment from GTA IV publisher Take Two Interactive. We also sought comment from the ESA, which referred us back to T2.

GP: The GTA IV transit ads shown by Fox News depict neither violence nor sex. Does the CTA reject ads for R-rated movies? Suggestive or violent television programs?

As I've written before, the video game industry needs to assert its First Amendment rights in these cases, which essentially come down to selective censorship by quasi-governmental entities.

UPDATE: I should add that in 2003 a group called Change the Climate successfully sued the MBTA when it refused to run ads calling for a debate on marijuana laws. In that case, the U.S. First Circuit Court held that:
There is direct evidence through statements made by MBTA officials that the reason for rejecting the advertisements was actually a distaste for Change the Climate's viewpoint.

This suspicion of viewpoint discrimination is deepened by the fact that the MBTA has run a number of ads promoting alcohol that are clearly more appealing to juveniles than the ads here.


Re: In Chicago: GTA IV Ads to Be Pulled From Buses as Transit

As for flat out lying, the Mass Effect thing's the only one I'm aware of. Mostly it's how they birddog their guests whenever they dissagree with the reporters. Oh, and how they fired a lady for not lying on air, and when she sued them, they won. That upset many people.



The thing that really bothers me about this is that the CTA consistently is facing budget cutbacks. Here, they have a clear source of revenue from a big-time developer and they cave to pressure and lost that revenue. Blago, in his infinite wisdom, pressures them in 2004 to cut the ads, but then tells them they aren't going to receive the same amount of state funds. It seems a touch ridiculous.

It should also be mentioned again that Blago spent millions of dollars of taxpayer funds in his ill-advised crusade against games. All during a year of historic shortfalls in the state budget. To think, there was no other suitable alternative last gubernatorial election cycle.

@ Yuki

I think he meant it to be sarcastic. but its hard to really tell with text. if he isn't being sarcastic, then your comment stands as is.


If the industry went around suing everyone that talked shit about them, they'd be no better than Jack.

Oh wow I live in Portland. Oregon and I never saw that those GTA ads were pulled.

I think it's ironic considering Portland has so much real world violence on the streets.

Also, the ad itself is harmless. I mean, come on! It's just 2 people.

@ Cecil475

Actually, I think all of those people should lock themselves up- the world would be a much better place.

I don't time when I was five or so, I saw an advertisement for the movie PREDATOR...and then I saw the actual movie...and now I'm an upstanding citizen who may just have a bright future in illustration...where the hell am I going with this?

@ Brandon

Why wouldn't GamePolitics be a reliable website?

oh thats just bull

[...] The concept of these life simulating games is exceedingly strange to me, particularly the ones that aren’t even multiplayer. Nevertheless, I guess whether it keeps kids off the streets playing inside, instead of outside in a gang, thereupon it can’t be all poor. [...]

Yes its the buses that cause all the crime. The game industry really needs to stand up for it's self in these situations.

Ads on buses just tell me when to be ready to buy the game, not whether I am going to buy it or not. I like to think consumers are more informed about their purchases than being swayed by advertising on public transportation.

Again, this continues to make my point, over and over.

THe industry has no BALLS!!!!!!

They'd be suing the shit outta these dirt bags right now if they had any guts.

I don't buy the 'first amendment' standpoint for this - companies do not have the right to advertise on property owned by someone else.
Unless the transit authority has lots of other advertisers lined up to take GTA's place, though, it doesn't make good sense. Transit authorities, like any government agency, like money.
I don't know if the CTA accepts money for liquor or r-rated movies offhand, but if they do I don't think they can claim this move does anything.

@ Benji

It's called discrimination technically, but to put more of a point on it, there's also things like "Equal rights under the law" to consider. They won't all games but an r rated movie gets a pass?


I still say the industry should be laying the legal smackdown on there ass.


Having news stories about how the ads were pulled off buses is going to give GTAIV more overall advertising (globally) than the ads would have achieved on the buses were they simply ignored by the press...

So basically I don't care about this. Once again the sensors achieve the complete opposite of their objective.

Are first amendment rights extended to advertising? I am not an expert in US constitutional law but I have my doubts that was the intent of this amendment. The way I see it, if a government is preventing you from your 'expression' then you might have a case. If a private entity (even one frunded by government) refuses to enter into an advertising contract with you, are your rights to expression being trampled upon?

You can always advertise elsewhere.

Now if the government is preventing most or ANY advertising by you, you may have an issue at that point.

I am not sure this is worth pursuing.

GP: I have to disagree. This is the further demonization of games and, by extension, gamers. What's more, the bus companies are not private firms. They are quasi-governmental agencies, propped up in large part by tax dollars.

Finally, NORML Change the Climate successfully sued the MBTA on this very issue in 2003.

This is great work from an admired public official. Video games have no right to be advertised in public. Put them where they belong, on posters in the back rooms of porn shops, where only adults can see them.

[...] wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptAs police and city officials in Chicago deal with a rash of recent shooting incidents, the local Fox News affiliate has questioned the posting of ads for Grand Theft Auto IV on buses and buildings of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). And, just like that, CTA president Ron Huberman folded on the issue, telling Fox News through a representative that the ads would be removed. It’s not the first time that Chicago’s buses have provided the setting for a GTA controversy. In 2004 Gov. Rod Blagojevich railed against transit ads for GTA San Andreas. Over the years, GTA transit ads have come under fire in other cities as well. In 2006 Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and others forced the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) to pull ads for GTA Vice City Stories. The transit chief there justified his decision by issuing a policy which equates M-rated games with X-rated movies. GTA bus ads have also come under fire […] [...]

Says a lot about an organization that caves in to another organization (FOX News) that is known for false and fraudulent reporting and even won the legal Right to lie to and deceive its viewers.

NW2K Software
Nightwng2000 NW2K Software Nightwng2000 is now admin to the group "Parents For Education, Not Legislation" on MySpace as

@Sean B

Yeah, this from a person who apparently isn't paying much attention to the fact that the industry has been whopping Censor ass in court for the past 5 years.

Save your self serving rants for the brain dead minions in your church group.

Advertise somewhere that is NOT owned by a government that thinks lowly of you.

That is what I would be doing.

As for cases where Fox NEWS has said some bad things about a single Videogame and exagerates to a point where they are lying and the politicians get into the game too, well the Videogame Industry just has to say to itself "OK, enough is enough, we are not going to be treated like this anymore" and start to stand up for itself.

I think that when dennis talked about their first amendment rights it was the right for rockstar/taketwo to come out and odicially say "You people are total dicks & if you don't want our advertising money, we'll spend it somewhere else"

Did they actually enter into a contract to display the advertising or was this a "coming soon to busses everywhere" thing? If they had a contract, then on the surface, chicago would seem to be in breach of it.

I don't know where I really stand on this. Deep down I feel that the game should be allowed to be advertised wherever the company can pay to have them advertised. However, I also recognize the CTA's right to choose who they advertise. This isn't about law, it's about contraversey. They don't want to be a part of it. Unfortunately, this is seen as a contraversial move.

I don't see this as a First Amendment argument. There really isn't a law against pulling the ads. It could be seen as unfair especially if the city is seeing problems before the game is even released.

@ Mottom

If he is, then he needs to mark it /sarcasam or face my half asleep, exhausted tech support rage


I took for sarcasm because I don't think anyone could say that seriously. But my rage is the half asleep, just woke up, tech support rage, and so is more optimistic about human nature. I'll snap out of it in about 45 minutes or so.

Honestly, this is probably a great move on R*'s part. As has already been stated, censoring a game only gives it free advertising, which generates more interest than a thousand bus ads. GTA4 is a big enough name that everyone probably knows about already, so a bus ad would maybe raise awareness 0.1%. And besides, R* is a big enough name that they don't care about something silly like the CTA.

And besides, as I have often said anyway, Chicago sucks.

There is a reason the industry has no balls: they can survive in a world where only children's games are made. Games with adult themes and provoking, even artistic, content are still a tiny fraction of the total games market.

Spongebob, Hannah Montana, Mario Party, etc will always sell. The industry will do just fine without violent games.

Usually my commentary is more in depth than this but I know of no way to say this more simply than the Industry as a whole needs to grow up and grow a pair.

Papa Midnight

Why can't we have politics that are high up in the government that would debate these guys?

You know, its high tim the video game industry struck back. The ESA, ECA, The publishers, the developers, the consumers stood up to this. This is retarded, in every sense of the word. These people are using their power to squash this becuase they don't like it. If you go after ads becuase of what the products, then go after all of them, and not just videogames!

I wonder if 'Campaign for a Commercial-free Childhood' has anything to do with this. I tell you, You want a commerical-free childhood? Get rid of the TV, the internet and lock yourself up ant home and NEVER LEAVE THE HOUSE AGAIN! NEVER TALK TO ANYONE! DON'T READ ANY BOOKS! THROW THEM OUT! And there you have it. A 'commerical free childhood' and a 'commerical free life.'

Warren Lewis

Just take Rockstar/T2's ad money and then ban the ad. What a rip off.

I think there's something to be said for the industry choosing its battles. If the industry presses the point, then what? It's protesting for its right to advertise for a highly controversial, mature-rated game, on a venue where many minors will be exposed to it? And honestly, 99% of the target demographic probably already knew the game's coming out without any advertising at all. I suspect that ($ saved from not paying for any more CTA ads) + (sales generated from free advertisement over the controversy) > ($ from sales generated by bus ads).
The idealists can say it's unfair, and it is, but the pragmatists can also realize that there's nothing much to gain from pressing the point.

[...] Filed under: Culture, Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, Action [...]

Textbook case of content based discrimination. The game industry really needs to get off its ass and fight this one. Take Two or Rockstar could pretty easily win this kind of case.

I understand the argument about picking your battles but this kind of case could really be a HUGE blow to the "violent video games are evil" crowd.

In order to have this kind of discrimination upheld the CTA would be required to show there is a COMPELLING state interest in this kind of restriction. Which means they'd have to bring in real, honest to God, evidence that violent video games lead to violent behavior.

As we all know the evidence of that best. So if Take Two or Rockstar were to fight this we could finally get a court ruling that says something to the effect of:

"The connection between the advertisement or playing of violent video games and violent behavior is simply too tenuous to uphold regulation of the medium. The state has shown no compelling interest in this kind of content based regulation."

It would be a major blow to the regulation supporters. It would create a pretty iron-clad precedent that would stick barring some kind of real evidence that there is a connection between violent behavior and violent video games.

Is everyone forgetting that Fox News is from the same group of companies as publishes and the Grand Theft Auto fansite,

Oh good lord. If they didn't want to advertise anything with depictions of violence, that's fine, but it's f**ked for them to single out video games.

I'm looking out my office right now and still see them on the CTA... hmmm strange

Knowing how slow the transit authority here is, the game will already be out before all of these get removed. And if its any sooner than I'll be pissed because the CTA (and RTA as a whole) is a joke and if this becomes a priority ... I just don't see how Ron Huberman can keep his job.


They absolutely need to fight for this issue. It's not about minors seeing their ads since there is nothing on the ad that is suggesting violence. There are plenty of other M rated games that are and will continue to be advertised on public transportation. The issue should be that extremely violent movies like Saw can run ads without controversy on public transportation, and the violence with GTA IV will never be near as graphic as what Saw can be, yet get pulled due to media hype and scare tactics. I am guessing it is because the stations know they will lose hours of tv watching to this game. At least 15 hours for every copy purchased. Thats a lot of tv we aren't watching.

Thanks, John Bruce.

Any round spherical objects will also be removed from the transit system as suggesting they had balls was obviously a gross misrepresentation of the facts.

Excellent work CTA! As you consistently raise fees due to poor budgeting, this was the best time to take a chance at reducing your advertising income.

*Sigh* Yet another part of my hometown, Chicago, that I can't support. Thankfully I can feed the birds at the parks, they're at least neutral on the videogame issue.

clueless out of touch nannying....gotta love it.......

fox distorts games again.

one person thinks it should stay and everyone else wants them down? a little bit uneven air time.

that and mentioning a bunch of killings in the city before hand.

EA should have sued Fox over the Mass Effect slander to send a message that this kind of crap is not acceptable. but it is Fox so what do you expect.

I wonder if there are any adds for violent Movies or TV shows on those busses / subways...

I completely agree that CTA has violated R*/Take Two's right to free speech. However, good points have been brought up that such a fight would bring negative focus on Take Two as a company.

I suggest an alternative angle that still proves they've got some cahones on 'em.

Sue CTA for misrepresentation of their product, aka advertising.

Those signs on those buses had to be approved BEFORE the contract for advertising was signed and CTA received funds. What went on the buses was no surprise, it was just Faux News making noise and the city of Chicago bowing down. Make them pay monetarily. Make this kind of action VERY costly to those who do it.

Bus transits take down a big money maker for them
The State under funds them
The Buses are desperate
Can you say stupidity?

Poem by the StealthKnight

[...] Shameful. After MyFox Chicago ran a little piece questioning why a violent game is being advertised on city buses, the head of the Chicago Transit Authority had the ads removed. There are so many things wrong with this, from ignorance on parade to the violation of free speech as a public authority arbitrarily decides what gets to be advertised and what doesn’t. Earlier they decided that M-rated games were equivalent to X-rated movies. [...]
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