Ad Blockers in Public Spaces

Little by little, advertising continues to encroach upon public space - so much so that sometimes it seems advertisers would turn every town square into Times Square.

Here are recent examples: The exteriors of Washington's Metro subway cars are being "wrapped" with ads. Metro is also planning TV screens with commercials on some trains, and, like other cities, thinking about selling naming rights to stations.

In Arizona, 10 fire trucks in Phoenix carry public-safety messages. They also carry the logo of the hospital that paid to sponsor the ads. And for a fee, businesses can have their logos painted on the bottom of Phoenix's public pools.

The lighting of the National Christmas Tree on the Washington Mall last December was sponsored by MCI.

Wait a minute. With each new ad effort, valuable public space is compromised. Revenues from ads can quickly help shore up sagging budgets, but elected officials must weigh that against the downgrading by private interests of what is common to all.

Millions of Americans signed up for the "Do Not Call" list. Millions also have antispam filters on their computers. Eliminating visual spam isn't so easy. But standing up for the right to have public space free from commercial clutter requires public action.

Some citizens already are complaining about an uptick in the number of ads run in movie theaters before the main feature. Others were able to stop an effort a few years ago designed to put ads on police cars.

Citizens and elected officials can make more efforts to preserve the sanctity of public space, and as much as possible, keep it commercial-free.

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