Staff Report #2
October 28, 2020
To All Commissioners
Re: Advertising Policy Update
That the Commission:
- APPROVE the Draft Advertising Policy as set out in Enclosure I, with an effective date of October 29, 2020; and
- APPROVE the modification to the Bus Advertising Contract with Lamar Advertising to remove the reference to the Canadian Advertising Standards in order to be consistent with the Advertising Policy.
The Commission currently holds advertising contracts with three different contractors; bus advertising with Lamar Advertising, shelter advertising with Outfront Media, and bench advertising with Creative Outdoor. In total, annual advertising revenue accounts for approximately $680,000 or 1.7% of annual transportation and operating revenue.
While each of the respective contracts include language with respect to the nature of the advertisements that will be approved for installation, the Commission has never had an Advertising Policy that would be considered all-encompassing. Generally speaking, the contract language defines exclusions and expectations as to the advertising content, including the following:
- advertisements will not expressly or impliedly present demeaning or derogatory portrayals of individuals or groups; and
- undermine the safe and welcoming character of London’s public transit system and/or of the London Transit Commission as an organization.
Over the years, there have been instances where proposed advertisements have been questioned as to whether they were in keeping with the provisions of the respective contracts. In some cases, advertisements that had been approved were subsequently challenged by the public, and the response has been to measure the advertisement in question against the above criteria. In addition, in some cases, commentary from the Canadian Advertising Standards has been sought.
Given concern with respect to challenges that may arise from this approach, the Commission’s legal counsel has recommended an overarching Advertising Policy (see Enclosure I) be established that will be the guiding document for any challenges that arise in the future. As the policy outlines, consideration with respect to whether an advertisement should be placed and/or removed subsequent to placement will essentially rely on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms given the LTC is a government agency, and as such is subject to compliance with same. A 2009 Supreme Court of Canada decision stated that “generally freedom of expression should be permitted on public transit vehicles unless such expression/advertisement is offensive”. The examples defining “offensive” advertising provided by the Supreme Court included content that is discriminatory or advocated violence or terrorism. Further, in making its decision, the Court stated that while a community standard of tolerance may constitute a reasonable limit on advertisement considered to be offensive, excluding advertisements which create controversy is unnecessarily broad. Citizens, including bus riders, are expected to put up with some controversy in a free and democratic society.
The draft Advertising Policy also includes a provision which provides the Commission with some latitude in the establishment of specific criteria that proposed advertisements must adhere to, ensuring that such criteria be in accordance with the Commission’s Charter obligations.
Part two of the report recommendation recommends a modification to the contract with Lamar Advertising that removes the reference to the Canadian Advertising Standards as part of their advertising review process. It should be noted that Ad Standards is not a government agency, but rather a non-profit self-regulatory body for the advertising industry. Further, the “Canada Code of Advertising Standards” is not a law, but rather a code created by Ad Standards. Although Ad Standards can review complaints and ask advertisers to remove ads; they do not have any enforcement power. This change will ensure alignment with the draft Advertising Policy. Representatives from Lamar Advertising have indicated their concurrence with this amendment.
Subsequent to Commission approval, the Draft Advertising Policy will be finalized and the appropriate amendments will be made to the contract with Lamar Advertising.
Kelly S. Paleczny, General Manager