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Outdoor ad ban in Bengaluru extends well beyond 1,000 days, media owners look askance at official apathy

By Rajiv Raghunath - June 01, 2021

Financially distressed media owners in the city are vociferously asking the state government for restoration of their business by introducing the long pending 2018 bylaws.

On the fateful morning of August 7, 2018, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) enforced a ban on all forms of outdoor advertising for one year within the jurisdiction of the civic body, in response to a Karnataka High Court directive issued a week earlier for removal of all flexes and banners across the city. Thereafter the BBMP went on an overdrive to tear down flexes and targeted to bring down hoarding structures, but at the same time announced the plan to introduce a new and more comprehensive advertising by-laws for the city under the Karnataka Municipal Council (KMC) Act in place of the existing advertising by-laws of 2006, . The revised by-laws were expected to facilitate effective regulation of the OOH media that itself had evolved in different ways and required more defined regulatory norms.

Unfortunately, the wait for the new rules for outdoor advertising within the BBMP limits has extended into its third year. As on date, 1,028 days have gone by since the enforcement of the ban, that has seriously impaired the business of over 150 OOH enterprises, and hit direct and indirect employment of 50,000+ people. The financially distressed media owners are now coming together to vociferously reclaim their right to business and thereby ‘Save Outdoor Advertising Industry Bangalore’, a slogan that hyphenates the myriad efforts that are underway to resuscitate the business and guarantee a reasonable livelihood for many who had had a high dependence on OOH operations for their sustenance.

The Outdoor Advertising Association of Bangalore has painstakingly warded off every legal challenge that was thrown at the industry by moving the Court for remediation, but the media operators are still in the dark about when the much awaited Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike Outdoor Signage & Public Messaging ByLaws 2018 would come into effect.

It is learnt that the draft ByLaws have undergone several revisions, and the OOH media owners in the city are apparently unsure of what indeed would be final provisions of the bylaws once they are enforced. The outdoor advertising bylaws are pending approval of the Urban Development Department of the state government, for months on end.

Media owners are hopeful that the ad bylaws will come into the effect in the next 2-3 months, as has been ascertained from the government circles, but their hopes have been belied several times in the past.

Change of governments since the enforcement of the ban on outdoor advertising, as well as reshuffle of ministers who were handling the concerned portfolios, were cited as one key factor delaying the approval of the new bylaws. The Covid19 pandemic drove another wedge into the decision making process.

Media owners vehemently ask why curbs were applied on legal media (hoardings) when skywalks and bus shelter media were allowed to conduct advertising as per the advertising bylaws of 2006. In fact, the High Court had deemed some 1,800 hoardings in the BBMP area as legal, which could have continued to be in business – in consonance with the 2006 bylaws -- until the new bylaws were introduced. Media owners are looking askance at this unjust treatment meted out to them by the authorities. As recent as March 2021, BBMP floated a tender inviting bids for constructing a skywalk on Brookfield Road for a concession period of 30 years. This project too would be governed by the 2006 ByLaws, until the new bylaws are introduced.

From the revenue perspective too, BBMP stood to gain significantly from advertising on hoardings, whereas in the case of skywalks (PPP projects) the civic body is extending subsidy to the developers.

Today, as the fallout of the pandemic and attendant lockdowns push the OOH media owners to the edge, most of which are small enterprises, they are coming together to voice their anguish at being pushed into the corridor of uncertainty that is not only pushing those businesses to a point of no return, but also leaving many families with little or no livelihood sources.


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