The OOH industry has reacted strongly to a proposed ban on hoardings in select wards in Mumbai. While the industry is game for regulations, it is calling for more clarity from the Government in this regard.
With the proposed policy of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), that has to be approved by local residents and corporators, there will be lesser hoardings dotting the city landscape.
The proposed policy, which covers wards A (Colaba), B (Bhendi Bazaar), C (Marine Drive-Kalbadevi), D (Malabar Hill-Peddar Road) and E (Byculla), bans erection of hoardings and mobile advertisement vans. Hoardings would be allowed subject to certain conditions in the remaining 19 wards. Reports indicate that existing hoardings in these five wards would have to go by March 31, 2008, while in other wards these would be allowed to continue only if they adhere to the new policy.
In an effort to gauge the industry’s reaction, exchange4media spoke with some of the industry players and received strong reactions. While nearly everyone is for regulation, they are asking for more clarity in the proposed policy.
Soumitra S Bhattacharyya, CEO, Laqshya Outdoors, said, “No official communication has been received by us to this effect, so till that happens we would not like to comment on it.” He, however, supported regulations on heritage sites and important landmarks.
Bhattacharyya further said, “However, we feel that billboards and media assets in other areas should be regulated in such a manner, whereby all media owners are taken into confidence by the authorities and the media owners jointly with the authorities work for the betterment of the city keeping in mind the factors like aesthetics, town planning and above all requirement of the citizens. This to my mind would be a win-win situation for all concerned.”
Sanjay Pareek, President, Percept OOH, said, “Unfortunately, the outdoor industry is the whipping horse for all and sundry. The ad hoc decision on the outdoor industry across the country seems to be the norm. Therefore, this doesn’t surprise us (outdoor industry) and till the time the Government doesn’t come out with a national policy on this issue, such knee jerk reactions will keep on hitting the outdoor industry.”
Putting forth his view, Indrajit Sen, COO and Business Head, Jagran Engage, said, “At the outset, this appears to be an arbitrary reaction to some non-issues – hyped up to divert attention. For a start, MCGM (Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai) must clarify whether it is trying to prevent commercial messaging altogether. For that is what an advertisement is – an attempt by a brand to reach its audience with information about its offerings. Are they trying to deny that opportunity in the commercial capital of the country?”
“If visual pollution is so much of a concern, is MCGM creating or engaged in creating a comprehensive policy to regulate advertising in public spaces in a rational manner? If hoardings are to be removed, is MCGM replacing it with something else – some other opportunity for a brand to advertise?” Sen asked.
Calling the ‘heritage’ building item another complete bogey, he added, “All hoardings were supposed to have already been removed from buildings identified as “heritage”, so where have new ones come up? If they have, then only the illegal ones should be removed.”
He also wanted the MCGM to clarify whether the hoardings that it was proposing to remove were illegal as of date, or had been put up only after licence for the same had been granted by the MCGM as well as an NOC had been issued by the building society concerned.
Sen further said that there were alternate and rational ways of regulating commercial messages visible in public spaces, which had been implemented in several cities all over the world over affecting public sensibilities or adding to traffic hazards in any way.
“In Mumbai then, shouldn’t MCGM first work out a comprehensive land-use policy that provides for creation and maintenance of its green spaces and balance it with commercial activities? If it is claimed that such policies already exist, then those also must be revisited instead of just reviewing hoardings and advertising policy and creating scapegoats out of a business where each person has been meticulously getting licenses and permissions before erecting every single hoarding,” remarked Sen.
“Over the years, if MCGM has flouted or diluted its own rules to suit specific interest groups, it cannot now overnight turn diametrically opposite for specific interests and thus create an even worse situation. Attempts to do this are then seen as cover-up jobs and diverting from the real issue,” he maintained.