Court Postpones Taxi TV Hearing

NEW YORK A lawyer for the five Taxi TV vendors fighting the termination of the pilot program here has asked the State Supreme Court for more time to prepare his case, postponing today’s hearing until Sept. 17.

“The lawsuit itself has a pretty slender basis,” said attorney Robert Borsody, who is representing the program vendors in the case. The delay will give Borsody more time to find case law that would support the vendors claim – that the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission violated a verbal agreement to extend their contracts past the Sept. 1 end date through March.

“Essentially it was a program that was a pilot program and the TLC had received feedback that they felt showed the public did not respond to it in the way the companies had hoped,” said Kate O’Brien Ahlers, media and communications director for the City of New York. “It was made very clear to the vendors that the program was going to expire,” she said, adding that letters were exchanged before the order came down.

The TLC told the company owners last week that the backseat taxi televisions would have to be turned off by Labor Day Weekend and removed before the end of September. Company owners last week lost an attempt to temporarily set aside the order until their case could be heard.

“When a city agency tells you one thing and does another thing, is there a recourse, or are you—to use legal jargon—just screwed,” Borsody said. The answer will rest on whether he is able to find substantial support for his argument, he said.

During the past six months, company spokesman Bruno Lucharelli said Intel Marketing, which produces “I Love Taxi TV,” 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 Lucharelli 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.

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, Lucharelli said.

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