The bill is written out quite nicely, and only by looking closely, you can see the pitfalls. With their help, the pro-government political force, in particular, will be able to insure itself on the upcoming elections.
How the government changes the rules in outdoor advertising
The bill on the regulation of outdoor advertising No. 5094 "On amendments to some laws of Ukraine in relation to improving legislative regulation in the field of outdoor advertising" was adopted in the first reading on June 3. It was supported by 334 MPs. The authors of the bill are 15 MPs (in particular, six from the Servant of the people, four - from the Holos party).
The bill introduces a layer of rules according to which permits for the placement of outdoor advertising will be issued or they may be refused. The rules will be nationwide, this is the main feature. Until now, the rules for placing outdoor advertising were established by decisions of local councils and differed depending on the city, town or village.
"Bill 5094 contains nationwide rules for outdoor advertising. Now the lack of common unambiguous and clear rules creates a wide field for corruption on the ground. In some cities, this has led to serious distortions: only" their "operators can place advertisements there. Today, no national operator is on an equal footing," explained to 112ua.tv member of the Supervisory Board of the All-Ukrainian Advertising Coalition (responsible for the direction of outdoor advertising) Kateryna Khramova.
According to the bill, the powers to issue permits for the placement of outdoor advertising or to refuse them remain with the village, city councils, city administrations and regional state organizations, which, when making decisions, will be guided not by internal, local rules, but by the norms of bill 5094. Based on the norms of the document, market participants will be able to challenge the refusal to issue permission in court. This has not been easy to do so far. "Often, the rules for placing outdoor advertisements developed by local authorities are so vague that on their basis it is even impossible to challenge in court the fact of refusal to place permission. Everything is decided by a small local official," Khramova said.
Among the innovations is the rule that the authority to place outdoor advertising on the roadsides of national importance is transferred to Ukravtodor, which lost this authority in 2012.
Ukravtodor is a balance holder of highways, and the roadside lane is in its constant use. At the same time, the owner cannot do anything (with advertising structures on the roadside, - ed.), because permits (for their placement, - ed.) are issued by regional state administrations ", - the co-author of the bill, MP from the Servant of the People Igor Vasilyev, was indignant on a round a table dedicated to the discussion of the norms of the bill.
Vasilyev hinted that roadside "outdoor advertisement" for a number of regional state administrations is a large item of corruption income. Like, in response to his request, some regional state administrations reported on the issuance of no more than 50-100 permits over the past ten years. The MP suspects that against this background much more real boards were placed, only the funds from them went past the city budget. “We understand that only 50-100 boards appear (along highways outside of settlements) before each election. Local elections, elections to the Verkhovna Rada,” Vasilyev counted.
He also mentioned large road construction. They say, “we are building roads,” but we cannot demolish the “illegal” boards, since they have an owner.
The transfer of the right to authorize or prohibit the placement of advertising structures on the roadsides to Ukravtodor, according to the MP, will bring much more order to the sphere.
Or it will close the option of outdoor advertising for political opponents of President Volodymyr Zelensky and the Servant of the People party, market participants told 112ua.tv on the basis of anonymity.
Outdoor advertising near highways is most often used to promote political parties and candidates.
According to the norms of the bill, the validity period of permits for the location of an advertising structure on which outdoor advertising is placed will change. It states that permits are issued for ten years if the settlement has a scheme for placing outdoor advertising, and for five years if there is no such scheme. So far, nowhere has it been clearly stated for how long the permits are extended. In many cities, permits are only extended by six months. Market operators every six months have to collect a package of documents to extend the permit and send it for consideration by local authorities. And often every official signature is worth its weight in gold, ”a representative of a large advertising operator in Lviv told 112ua.tv.
“Locally, the authorities issue permits for as long as they want - for six months, for three months, for a year, whatever. This is a deterrent for capital investment in the industry: if you receive a permit for only six months, then there is no motivation to invest in expensive constructions ", - Kateryna Khramova confirmed.
For example, the prices for the video boards range from $ 30,000 to $ 80,000. If you are confident that the structure will stand for ten years and no one will demolish it, putting a shop or gas station in its place, you can invest.
Schemes for placing outdoor advertising, according to the bill, become mandatory and are developed in cities and towns for at least ten years.
"The law reserves the right for each city to develop such a scheme for placing outdoor advertising, which will be acceptable for its architectural features and will not violate the aesthetic appearance of streets and historical centers," says Khramova.
It should be noted that talks about the need to streamline the placement of outdoor advertising in cities using schemes have been going on for a long time. But so far they have appeared only in three cities - in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odesa.
The bill, among other things, clearly spelled out the mechanism of actions of the authorities during the dismantling of structures, and lists the grounds for this. "Now, in the absence of clear norms, each city has its own approach to dismantling - there are often cases when 30-40 boards of an unwanted operator are cut out per night, and he, in turn, due to blurred wording, cannot even defend his rights in court," said Khramova.
The rules written out in the bill also apply to the territory of airports, the construction of outdoor advertising placed on the platforms of railway stations. Until now, placement issues had to be resolved with Ukrzaliznytsia itself or (in relation to individual sections) with its departmental divisions. In some cases and depending on the city, the approval of the city authorities was required.
Another innovation is the requirement to apply two-dimensional barcodes (QR codes) to outdoor advertising media, which will contain information about the owner of the facility, his phone number, number and validity period of permission to place outdoor advertising media. Information on the issued permits, locations of outdoor advertising media, their types, owners of outdoor advertising media, decisions on refusal to issue permits, their cancellation, extension of the validity period, as well as contracts for the right of temporary use of places for outdoor advertising media located or state property, will be recorded in a single electronic information base, which will be public on the website of the relevant licensing authority on the Internet.
Whoever owns outdoor advertising determines policy
If the bill is adopted and enters into force, much will depend not only on its norms, but also on their implementation and application in practice. No matter how good these or those legislative norms may seem, they can always be applied for the good, and for discrimination of competitors, and to achieve their own selfish goals, 112ua.tv interlocutors note.
If we draw parallels with books, the writer Andriy Kudin has a suitable description: the strong came up with concepts in order to offend the weak with impunity, and the weak did not take offense for this, because everything seems to be according to the law.
If the new rules are used with good intentions - to improve the aesthetic appearance of cities and roadsides, fill budgets and create new jobs, it will be good. But if the authorities decide with their help to abuse and use the norms to promote their own benefits and advertise the political force in which they are interested, it will be bad, market participants say.
"Control over the outdoor advertising market can be politically predetermined. Whoever owns outdoor advertising has a huge leverage on the political and economic proscenium. With this tool, you can suppress unwanted businesses and political competitors, strengthening the position of those who need it," warns political scientist Ruslan Bortnyk.
He stressed that outdoor advertising is a powerful tool in the political struggle, since it provides high visibility and, with a competent approach, can strengthen any political campaign. "This is a very effective tool, given that political forces have limited access to television channels: there are few television channels and they have owners with their political views. It is difficult to get into television. But outdoor advertising is available to all political players," political scientist comments.