In the outdoor industry, there definitely exists a need for support and encouragement. We do not want any regulation for the sake of it. Every government department or civic agency is looking out for earning revenue. Let the departments have broad guidelines in consultation with industry associations. Associations should be involved actively to regulate the business properly and aesthetically.
The main problem lies in multiple authorities trying to control the outdoor space in one city. We have been proposing for a single window approval or enabling authority in a given city, so we do not have to go from pillar to post for various locations. For instance, Delhi has Municipal Corporation of Delhi, New Delhi Municipal Committee, PWD, Northern Railway, DDA, Delhi Metro, DTC, UP Irrigation Department, etc. The more the civic authorities, the more inconvenience.
We do not insist on total decontrol of government machinery. What we want is a single window authority, which shall have advisers who understand the business and evaluate without any biases. Not everyone can understand the true potential of outdoor as a revenue collection project.
As far as safety guidelines are concerned, there should be clear policy, backed by proper data and research. The size of the boards and type of structure should be left to the discretion of media owners, but big size displays must be avoided. We prefer small size boards, say a maximum of 20 ft x10 ft, because they are a decent size to attract the attention of commuters.
As far as regulations are concerned, while we keep an open mind in dealing with the civic authorities, we are concerned about the lack of knowledge of some of those in powerful positions about the revenue potential of the outdoor business.
By-laws should be prepared with industry consultation. The approach to evolving by-laws should be pragmatic, so that they are not infringed upon in the first place. The by-laws that came into existence on the direction of the Hon’ble Supreme Court were so queer that if they are implemented, outdoor advertising will almost cease to exist. Thus, they were violated as soon as they came into existence. The babus and inspectors interpreted the by-laws according to their own perspective and indulged in outright nepotism by giving permissions for display to their blue-eyed owners of outdoor media.
For instance, hoardings are not permitted on the roofs of private buildings in Delhi, whereas wall wraps are allowed, some advertisers took permission for wall wraps but installed huge hoardings that were illegal and a hazard to the public. The authorities and inspectors turned a blind eye to this fallacy. Of what significance then are the by-laws?
Similarly, in the case of unipoles, as per law, unipoles should be erected at least 75 meters away from traffic lights and the distance between two unipoles should be 75 meters and no unipole can be erected on the right side of the path. These are not permitted on the Ring Road, Outer Ring Road and PWD roads, but 80 per cent of the unipoles make a mockery of by-laws. It is, therefore, necessary that by-laws are practical and fool-proof and not the ones to be toyed with by corrupt babus.
The outdoor business works on the principle of demand and supply. Today, people patronise outdoor media because it is more economical compared to other media. However, by some foolish acts if the civic authorities force the agencies to hike the media cost, the entire industry will be in deep trouble and the civic authority may not get the revenue it deserves. Sometimes, interpretations of guidelines create confusion as different people come to the position of power in government departments and each one tries to interpret differently. It is very difficult to convince or argue with those people. However, we at Delhi Outdoor Advertisers Association make representations to the civic bodies and improve the functioning to make them simple and comprehensible.
(Mukesh Gupta is MD, Graphisads, and General Secretary, Delhi Outdoor Advertisers Association.)