- Associated Press - Friday, November 6, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Coming soon to West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles regional offices - paid commercials on video screens.

The state Ethics Commission approved the commercials Thursday.

The DMV is upgrading its electronic system that directs customers to specific windows for service at the regional offices.

The DMV asked the Ethics Commission for permission to let the system vendor sell 18 minutes of paid advertising per hour to defray costs of the new flat-screen monitors along with the accompanying video technology. The other 42 minutes would feature state-provided programming, including public service advertisements from the DMV and other state agencies.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail (https://bit.ly/20zAKQk ) reports the commission determined that the state Ethics Act allows such advertising, as long as it doesn’t constitute an official agency endorsement of products or services. Commission attorneys noted that to defray costs, the commission previously allowed agencies to sell advertising in newsletters, on websites and at conferences.

The DMV said it would not use commercials for alcohol or tobacco products, political campaigns or electioneering, ads that violate community standards of decency or promote products or services contrary to the mission of the state.

The commission also agreed to prohibit the DMV from using nonpolitical ads involving people who are candidates for public office.

Commissioner Michael Greer said at the meeting that the commercials are “a horrible idea,” in part because citizens shouldn’t be compelled to watch ads in a public place.

But commissioner Betty Ireland said of Greer’s objections, “I don’t think being annoyed is an ethics violation.”

The commission also said the DMV video telecasts must have disclaimers that the commercials are paid advertisements.

DMV spokeswoman Natalie Holcomb said bids for the new electronic system will go out soon. She said the goal is to have the new system in regional offices next spring.

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Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, https://wvgazettemail.com.

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