Alcohol Bus Ad Compromise Headed For Vote Wednesday

Oct 24, 2012

Wednesday night the Metropolitan Transit Commission is scheduled to approve a compromise to its new policy allowing alcohol ads on Charlotte buses. The initial decision brought strong criticism from some members of city council and prompted the commission to take a second look.

WFAE's Julie Rose joined All Things Considered Host Mark Rumsey in studio to sort through the issue.

RUMSEY: Julie, what’s the compromise?

ROSE: Alcohol ads will not be allowed on the city’s smaller buses that circulate through neighborhoods. City Councilwoman LaWana Mayfield says she and her colleagues aren’t thrilled with the idea of having alcohol ads on city buses at all, but the transit system says it’ll have a $600,000 budget shortfall if it can’t accept those ads. That would mean raising fares.  So Mayfield says the council was looking for a way to minimize the harm the ads might cause in certain neighborhoods. Here’s how she put it.

ALC: “How do we mitigate so that we don’t have a saturation specifically in our communities that are not as affluent and haven’t had as many opportunities of economic success as we have in other areas.”

RUMSEY: And not putting ads on the city’s smaller buses prevents that saturation?

ROSE: They think so. But honestly, there are only about 45 of these buses in a system of more than 300 and they’re not really attractive to big national advertisers like alcohol companies anyway.  They want to be on the big streets and downtown.

RUMSEY: Will alcohol advertisers be able to choose any route they want, so long as it’s not a neighborhood shuttle?

ROSE: No, advertisers don’t get to choose their routes at all. They only pick the size and number of ads they run. Buses are actually rotated through various routes on a daily basis.

RUMSEY: Will the transit system limit how many alcohol ads it accepts?

ROSE: Not formally. But the transit system has promised to be sensitive and they’ve committed to do what they can to go after non-alcohol advertisers first.

RUMSEY: And will there be any limit on the size or content of the ads?

ROSE: No limit on size. The ads do have to be in good taste – which is relative, of course. They can’t use cartoons and super-young models that might appeal to kids. Two of these alcohol contracts have already been signed - including one for Crown Whisky, which we should start seeing on buses soon, if you haven’t already.