Банкеръ Weekly



The Commission on Town Planning with the Sofia Municipal Council will held a special meeting on the problem regarding billboards in the capital city. On Wednesday (October 13) the councillors decided that one of their following sessions would be entirely dedicated to the gaps in the Ordinance on the Municipality's Advertising Activities, which became evident in connection with the scandalous billboard of the folk singer Azis, hanging above the Serdika cinema and the order of the Chief Secretary of the Interior Ministry Boiko Borissov to remove it. Representatives of the municipality announced afterwards that in the shortest time possible they would approve ethical and aesthetic regulations for the contents of ads on billboards in the capital city. According to information of the Commission on Town Planning, the ethics code will be included in the entirely new regulation on the advertising activities of the municipality. It is under draft for a few months now and is being prepared by several municipal institutions, two of which play a key role when deciding who could and who could not place billboards. These are: Architecture and Town Planning Directorate and Advertisements Sector. The latter is also authorized to dismantle the wrongfully placed ads. About a month ago representatives of the two institutions were included in the working panel, drafting the ordinance in order to bring ideas closer. During the week, however, some said the group has failed to come to an unanimous stance.We have filed its proposals and we'll defend them at the meeting of the Commission on Town Planning, the head of Advertisements Sector Evgeni Radev said in front of the BANKER weekly. There are huge deficiencies in the currently effective regulation, he added.According to representatives of the Advertisements Sector, there is no effective mechanism at present for removing a billboard if it is placed on private property. In order to impose a sanction I have to prove it was you who ordered the construction of the facility or that you have at least taken part in its installation, Mr. Radev explained. As the person or firm that has ordered the advertisement is not usually the owner, but has only rented the billboard (at that for a fixed period of time), it is impossible to trace and find the real offender. Until we find the whereabouts of the advertising company and until we enter into written correspondence with it, its contract with the billboard's owner has usually expired meanwhile. At the same time the fine for a wrongfully placed billboard is between BGN10-30, Mr. Radev specified.According to estimates of the municipal Advertisements department, there are at least 500 unregistered billboards on private areas in Sofia. The one above the Serdika cinema was one of them. Such a billboard could be purchased at the market at about EUR500/month, Mr. Radev said. According to our rough estimates, the monthly turnover from wrongfully placed ads on private estates comes up to some EUR250,000, he added. Experts of the Advertisements Sector believe that the problem is caused by the way their colleagues from the Architecture and Town Planning Directorate give permissions for placing advertisements. The directorate has no criteria, signed by the Sofia mayor or by the municipal council, for approval of the artistic designs, which firms present when applying to install ads, Mr. Radev pointed out. Several years ago the consultative council with the directorate approved a protocol with criteria for appraisal of the ads, but it has not been accepted yet, he added.Heads of advertising agencies complained they have been refused to put a billboard at a place where competitors placed their billboard afterwards. What concerns the Architecture and Town Planning Directorate are the technical indicators of the design and not the contents and artistic value, the institution's Director Georgi Bachev commented for the BANKER weekly. An expert council has been set up with the directorate by an order of the Sofia mayor to consider the applications for placing advertisements. The requirements are not one or two and could not be gathered in a list of criteria as they are connected with various normative document, Mr. Bachev explained, but declined to give information about the institution's proposals for new regulations. The Advertisement Sector has proposed to increase the sanction for a wrongfully installed billboard to BGN500 and to impose it to the owner of the estate, no matter if he has given or not his consent to place the advertisement. The fine shall be shared in case the owner shows a contract with a firm which, however, has not obtained a permission for advertising activities. Representatives of Advertisement Sector also believe that the future regulations should explicitly state that the Architecture and Town Planning Directorate is obliged to give information to its colleagues what exactly it has allowed advertising companies to do. Presently, the directorate does not have to tell me what format of a project it has approved, Mr. Radev explained. But I am supposed to know if a billboard has been place in violation of the regulations and to sanction the offenders, he said. No matter what happens at the meeting of the Commission on Town Planning with the Sofia Municipal Council, one thing is already clear. As long as the two institutions, expected to settle the capital city's problem regarding the numerous billboards, quarrel, people like Azis will be showing at ease their behinds.

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