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Bill to Ban Use of Cell Phones in NYC Theaters Vetoed, But Not Dead logo

The sponsor of a bill designed to cut down on cell phone interruptions to plays, operas, ballets, and other cultural events in New York City vows that the measure will become law, despite Mayor Mike Bloomberg's recent veto.

East Harlem City Council Member Philip Reed introduced the legislation, which would ban the use of cell phones at concerts, movies, plays, lectures, dance performances, museums, libraries, and galleries. Anyone caught using a cell phone or letting it audibly ring "in the performance space...during the performance" would be subject to a $50 fine. Affected venues would be required to bring audience members' attention to the law through posted signs and/or pre-performance announcements.

Representatives from Actors' Equity, the League of American Theatres and Producers, and the Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers testified in the bill's favor in September. The Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association, an international organization for wireless service providers and manufacturers, lobbied against it.

The bill isn't only supported by Broadway professionals; apparently, the general public is also fed up with increasing cell phone interruptions of performances. When the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on the bill's introduction and offered visitors to its website a chance to weigh in on the subject, 78 percent voted in favor of the ban and an additional seven percent preferred a more limited prohibition. That margin of support is roughly equal to the proportion of NYC council members' votes.

Despite strong public support for the bill, Bloomberg has said from the beginning that he considers the ban unenforceable and that he would not sign the bill if it reached his desk. True to his word, he vetoed it Tuesday, January 14. "He seems to be the only person in New York City who doesn't think this is a good idea," Philip Reed told "But we have the votes to override him and it will happen very soon."

Reed said that if the forthcoming, Bloomberg-initiated smoking ban can be enforced in the city's more than 3,500 bars, as the mayor believes, it should also be possible to hold patrons to a no-phone policy in the less than 1,200 venues covered by the legislation. "Unenforceable? Please, give me a break," Reed remarked.

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