Question of the day: Should the people's property – by which I mean such basic public items as police vehicles, subway stations, and fire hydrants – be rented out as commercial billboards for hyping corporate products? Answer: Of course not!
Question of the day: Should the people’s property – by which I mean such basic public items as police vehicles, subway stations, and fire hydrants – be rented out as commercial billboards for hyping corporate products? Answer: Of course not!
But it’s happening anyway. For example, after Littleton, Massachussets, made an “advertise with the good guys” pitch, a supermarket chain bought ad space on the town’s police cars. Philadelphia has rebranded its Pattison subway station as the “AT&T Station,” even plastering the telecom giant’s logo on each turnstile. And in Syracuse, the sheriff’s office plans to adorn its rescue helicopters with ads.
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Who benefits from this crass commercialization of public spaces? Corporate sponsors, for sure. As one ad executive bluntly noted, we’re always seeking “another place for eyeballs to be looking at [ads].” And, of course, public agencies get a bit of extra cash from these sell-out deals – but at what price? A sheriff’s official in Syracuse admits that “some people are a little put off by the idea that we’re getting sponsorship for what used to be a government duty.”
Yes – count me as one of those people! AT&T, for example, didn’t pay for that subway and has no right to treat it as its private billboard. Government officials rationalize this tacky “yard sale” as a way to get revenue without raising taxes, but that’s just a political dodge, for providing adequate tax revenue for essential government services is their job. Gut it up – instead of privatizing a piece of the public for a pittance of AT&T’s self-promotion money, tax AT&T! You’d get the same level of funding or more, while protecting the public’s trust in the integrity of public service.
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