A complaint by Jack Thompson has prompted Miami's transit authority to remove ads for Grand Theft Auto IV from local bus shelters.
Miami thus joins Chicago as the second major US city to pull GTA IV ads from its public transit system in recent days.
GamePolitics reported on Thursday that Thompson had complained about the GTA IV ads to Miami Mayor Carlos Alvarez. The GTA IV ads were apparently removed sometime on Friday afternoon. Hugh Chen, Miami-Dade Transit's deputy director of operations, told GamePolitics on Friday evening, via e-mail:
The posters were removed after a review of our approval process and contract... Be assured that the circumstances around placing and removing these specific posters were reviewed before action was taken. We are governed by our contract with our shelter contractor and County ordinances.
A spokesman for GTA IV publisher Take-Two Interactive said the company was still reviewing the situation. A spokesman for the ESA referred inquiries back to Take-Two.
For his part, Thompson wasted no time in crowing about the removal of the ads in a news release:
...Jack Thompson has today persuaded the Miami-Dade Transit System to pull all advertisements for the Grand Theft Auto IV cop-killing simulation game from its bus stops.
In the wake of this success, Thompson is proceeding to get all GTA IV ads pulled from all US transit systems since such ads clearly violate promises made by the [ESRB], found right at its web site, not to place “Mature-rated” game ads in venues that will be seen by teens.
However, Thompson's contention about the ESRB appears to be incorrect. An ESRB spokesman told GP on Friday, "Considering the overwhelmingly adult demographic profile of mass transit riders... the placement of GTA IV ads in these types of outlets would typically not be in violation of [Ad Review Council] guidelines." Nor do the advertising guidelines listed on the ESRB website appear to support Thompson's contention.
Thompson may be confusing the ESRB ad guidelines with a 2002 report on the marketing of media violence by the Federal Trade Commission which addressed limiting the advertising of M-rated games in media where children constitute a specific percentage of the potential audience. The FTC report notes that the video game industry has a self-regulatory standard prohibiting print ads when children comprise more than 45% of the likely audience.
In his news release, the embattled Thompson also alleged a conspiracy between the video game industry and the judge who presided over his nine-day trial on Florida Bar ethics charges last November. That judge's recommendation on Thompson's future status as an attorney is expected in August.
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