Radio station’s bus ads run into trouble with transit agency

Monday, April 5, 2004

DES MOINES, Iowa — An advertisement with President Bush dressed as a groom and Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry wearing a wedding gown will not be displayed on buses, city officials said.

The Des Moines Metropolitan Transit Authority board rejected the ad last week.

“The issue is that we’re a publicly funded agency that uses tax dollars and we believe we need to remain neutral on political issues and controversy,” said Des Moines MTA General Manager Steve Spade.

Officials from KBGG-AM radio wanted to buy 20 ads on buses with the picture and the phrase, “We need to talk.” Station officials say it’s a First Amendment issue and no written bus policy excludes such ads.

“Why can they run casino ads that a lot of people can’t stand” and not this, asked Scott Farkas, general manager of Citadel Broadcasting of Des Moines, which owns the radio station.

The MTA does not have a written ban on political ads, Spade said. He noted that ads for and against abortion rights also had been refused.

Bush and Kerry would have alternated wearing the dress on some of the buses if the ads had been accepted, Farkas said.

“It is a political satire,” Farkas said. “We are not advocating anything with this advertisement except to attract a new audience to our radio station.”

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