Taxi TV Loses Court Battle to City

NEW YORK Five companies that installed televisions and programming in the back of New York City cabs lost their fight tonight in State Supreme Court to stay the termination of the year-old Taxi TV pilot program.

New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission told the company owners this week that the televisions would have to be turned off by Sunday and removed before the end of September. Company owners sought an injunction yesterday on the grounds that the TLC’s decision violated a verbal contract to continue the program through March, said spokesman Bruno Lucarelli. That hearing was continued through today, he said.

A hearing into the matter began yesterday afternoon. Tonight the judge is heard testimony from the owners of the mobile entertainment companies, the owners said. The vendors will make a second attempt to get the court to set the decision aside while they seek a hearing before the TLC during a Sept. 5 hearing.

“Just in the past several months we were starting to gain credibility in the ad community,” said Lucarelli, spokesman for I Love Taxi TV. Lucarelli, whose company operated television sets in 200 cars, had been in business since the program’s inception.

During the past six months, Lucarelli said his business had signed on advertisers including Bally’s Total Fitness, American Express and Cingular Wireless. The company joined with the History Channel to create short films on New York landmarks and with A&E to develop 60-second installments of the network’s flagship Biography program featuring notable New Yorkers. Though Lucarelli would not say if those companies were paid advertisers, he did say that A&E promoted its brand with a tagline at the end of the segment.

“All the companies are going to have to shut down now and declare bankruptcy,” said Jarred Kirsch, chief executive officer and founder of Metroline Entertainment, which operated The Taxi Channel. “New York was the linchpin of our business model.”

According to Lucharelli, the TLC said feedback suggested New Yorkers found the content offensive, a finding at odds with the company’s independently conducted research. That survey, conducted by Schaller Consulting in Brooklyn, N.Y., revealed a 93 percent approval rating among riders, Lucarelli said.

“I don’t understand how the TLC can say from the public standpoint that it’s anything but a positive,” said Bruce Shaller, principal of Schaller Consulting. Schaller said 388 passengers responded to the six-question survey.

A city spokeswoman said the city was pleased with the court’s decision and that the termination was the result of the natural end of a one-year liscensing deal.