Why Ukrainian deputies couldn't solve problem with billboards and citylights?

Author : Yaroslav Konoshchuk

Source : 112 Ukraine

"You are lobbying not the interests of the people of Kyiv, but your party bosses." "This is the dream of corrupt officials." No, it's not the scandals around new construction works or changes in law enforcement - it's about billboards, citylights and other attributes of outdoor advertising. So why the MPs could not make a step towards putting things in order with advertising?
14:30, 12 March 2018

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According to one of the largest operators of the market, in 2017, the external advertising market in Ukraine amounted to 2.69 billion hryvnias. It is expected that in 2018 when the active phase of the presidential election campaign begins, it will grow by 25%. The most profitable part for advertisers is the capital. Kyiv accounts for slightly more than half of billboards and city lights. A wide range of companies uses external advertising: from fitness centers to builders.

In general, today the sphere of external advertising is regulated by the law on advertising and dozens of by-laws, as a result, as noted in the report of USAID, there is a manual control of the processes. It's not the first year that there have been discussions about the need to amend the legislation on outdoor advertising. In particular, on the need to introduce unified rules for the placement of outdoor advertising. As explained people's deputy from the faction "Samopomich" Olexander Opanasenko, local authorities can "establish an arbitrary list of requirements for the placement of external advertising," which in turn increases corruption risks. Simply put, money goes to some people's pocket. In addition, as the parliamentarian notes, "about a third of billboards and city lights in cities and more than 70% outside of them are placed without relevant documents."

They finally came up with an idea

Parliamentarians are not the first time trying to change the rules of the game in the outdoor advertising market. Back in 2015, the Verkhovna Rada registered a bill on changing the rules for placing billboards, but the initiative was not supported in the session hall and at the end of 2017, a revised version of the bill was registered in parliament. In accordance with it, among other things, placement of advertising on a competitive basis was planned, criteria for selecting the winner were determined. Among the criteria, we saw the price and percentage of placement of social advertising. As for the social sector, it was noted that the weight of this criterion in the overall assessment is 15%. At the same time, it was envisaged the possibility of locating city lights and billboards without competition. At the same time, it was proposed to introduce the principle of tacit consent, according to which, if the customer did not receive a refusal to install the billboard within the agreed time, he received the consent.

"The business agreed to withdraw about half of the advertising in exchange for the extension of the term of permits for its placement," adds the People's Deputy Oleksandr Opanasenko. He notes that it was also proposed to establish uniform rules for placing outdoor advertising and adds that to date, each city council can itself determine its own placement rules.

In addition, it was proposed to streamline the procedure for placing advertisements on the roads, as well as to prohibit the placement of advertisements in palaces and museums, except for cases of their restoration. According to the idea of the authors of the bill, the innovations should, among other things, contribute to the transparency of the outdoor advertising market. Critics of the proposed initiative among the deputy corps accuse the authors of "lobbying specific market operators."

However, the parliamentary lawyers criticized the bill, noting that it requires additional costs from the state budget.

But then they quarreled

Supporters and opponents of the initiative reacted emotionally to the vote in the parliament.

"We will live in a mess of billboards and outdoor advertising structures in an opaque market. That’s why lobbyists in the Rada have won. Lobbyists of those officials from the Kyiv authorities who control the outdoor advertising market in the capital", wrote in a social networks chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Freedom of Speech and Information Policy Victoria Syumar. Supporters of the draft law call the forthcoming elections another reason for the failure and add that local authorities will decide "whom they want to place on the billboards and whom they do not want to see there."

Unofficially, the source in the market calls the lack of communication with the session hall the reason for the failure of the bill.

"The bill was prepared for more than two years, it was perfect and took into account the interests of all groups, but they forgot to work with the session hall, so the deputies decided not to vote for the bill," the interlocutor notes.

In turn, the opponents of the bill note that, despite some progressive norms, the draft was issued for specific market operators and its adoption would reduce the level of competition, and also carry corruption risks.

"The bill lays down the principle of tacit consent, which carries corruption risks and is a dream of corrupt officials to take bribes for their silence and inaction. Given that the competition is not compulsory, and in the absence of schemes for placing outdoor advertising by tacit consent, you can put advertising carriers anywhere, for which the application is submitted and a timely response is not received. The official will be fined or reprimanded, but the received "benefit" will block all his risks. The inaction of an official should be punished, and the permit must be obtained according to a general procedure"- wrote the representative of the group "Udar" - Natalia Novak in Facebook.

What's next?

Despite the failure, the authors of the bill (people's deputies Galasyuk, Yemets, Opanasenko, Matuzko, Stashuk) declare their intention to try their luck again, although they doubt that the deputies until the end of the convocation will work on the bill regulating external advertising, even despite the participation of the USAID in the development of this initiative.

"I think that we will go through the division of the bill, because the Regulation (in accordance with the Parliament's Regulation, if the bill fails, it can be re-registered at the next session - does not allow the submission of a comprehensive bill. Until September, we will submit a bill on improvement and advertising on historical monuments, "said Olexander Opanasenko, People's Deputy of the Samopomich faction, during a discussion on external advertising.

However, the deputy doubts that the parliament will return to consideration of this issue until the end of the convocation, because "you can see how many outdoor advertisements have appeared on the streets - everyone is preparing for elections now."

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