Friday, June 26, 2015

Film Producer Says Its Ads For Comedy About U.S. Muslims Is Permitted Under New York MTA Revised Guidelines

As previously reported, in late April the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority changed its policy on display advertising to exclude all ads of a political nature. Yesterday a lawsuit was filed on behalf of a movie production company that claims ads for its movie "The Muslims Are Coming!" was wrongfully rejected under that policy.  The complaint (full text) in Vaguely Qualified Productions LLC v. Metropolitan Transportation Authority, (SD NY, filed 6/25/2015), alleges that acceptance of ads for the film-- created by two American Muslim comedians-- was unconstitutionally delayed before the policy change, and then wrongfully rejected under the new policy because the ads are not political.  The complaint alleges in part:
55. With its Revised Policy, Defendants seeks to convert the MTA’s property from a designated public forum into a limited public forum....
57. In a limited public forum, strict scrutiny is accorded to restrictions on speech that fall within the designated category for which the forum has been opened. Restrictions on speech that fall outside that designated category must only be viewpoint neutral and reasonable.
58. VQP’s Advertisements fall within a designated category for which Defendants have opened the forum. Specifically, VQP’s Advertisements are “commercial advertising,”... because, in a manner consistent with VQP’s brand, the Advertisements “promote” and “solicit the sale” of VQP’s product, “The Muslims Are Coming!,” by promoting the underlying message of the film—that American Muslims are ordinary people.
A Muslim Advocates press release announced the filing of the lawsuit. Newsweek reports on the lawsuit.