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There is a small uprising in Prague. Companies that offer advertising services in the form of large-area tarpaulins on the walls of Prague houses are going to disobey the ban imposed on them by the regulations of the Prague City Council from 1 October.
The entrepreneurs concerned claim that the regulation, adopted in order to combat visual smog, is discriminatory and liquidating for them. According to the owners of the city, it only affects one part of the market in its plan; Sail operators point out that the city remains “uncleaned” from the prevailing billboards. Or that the new regulation will not affect, for example, advertising protrusions on public lighting poles.
Roughly 120 advertising tarpaulins, which are to disappear by the end of September, are likely to remain hung on Prague’s buildings.
“Companies that are members of our association will operate advertising space even after the effective date of the decree. This is until the Office for the Protection of Competition and the European Commission give a final opinion on the whole matter, “said Jan Soušek as the chairman of the four-member Association of Czech Outdoor Advertising Companies and co-owner of the Super poster company, which deals with sails.
Entrepreneurs are aware that they are in conflict with the rule of law, and they say that they are ready to bear the necessary consequences. They also claim that they have no other choice, who believe that the Office and the European Commission, to which they have previously addressed, acknowledge their objections that the management of Prague has unfairly distorted competition by its decision. And that the disputed regulation will eventually be repealed and rewritten.
“We are certainly not against regulations, but it must be fair and across the entire market,” says Jan Soušek. He pauses that the ban does not only apply to the protected part of Prague, but also to parts of housing estates with modern buildings.
The Antimonopoly Office has indicated that it will no longer decide the case in the remaining days of September. “Our office is investigating a complaint concerning the new regulation of outdoor advertising in Prague, it is negotiating with the capital on possible anti-competitive aspects of the amended decree, but the end of the investigation cannot be expected during September,” said Martin Švanda, spokesman for the Office.
The goal is not discrimination
Advertising tarpaulins have not yet been banned only in the city’s monument reserves, in the very center of the metropolis. The new regulation, which also deals with some other media, extends this ban to two other zones.
As a result, it mainly concerns parts of Prague, not only protected areas. In the third zone, furthest from the center, the ban included entire cadastral areas, including Vokovice, Motol, Braník, Malešice and Strašnice, not just selected streets, as the critics of the decree would find more meaningful.
Like sails, advertising boards affixed to vehicles will be strictly prohibited in Prague under this decree. For other types of outdoor advertising (such as flyers, advertising posters, audio advertising or characters in advertising disguises), the territorial restriction will be less severe.
It should be added, however, that the said regulation affects only that part of the advertising activities in which the authorities are not yet able to speak, for example, it does not apply to billboards authorized by building authorities.
“The goal is not discrimination, it is rather a settlement. Advertising tarpaulins have not been subject to any regulation outside the historic center so far – unlike billboards and bigboards, which Prague has in recent years regulated with the help of Prague building regulations. However, building regulations cannot apply to advertising tarpaulins, due to which tarpaulins do not fall within the scope of the Building Act, “said Hana Třeštíková (Prague herself) before the decree in the daily Právo.
It is the Prague group itself, part of the Prague City Hall Coalition, that is most involved in the fight against visual smog.
Billboards too, but more slowly
The head of the Prague group, Jan Čižinský, also talks about the need to settle the situation. “There are two types of regulation, just as transport is regulated by rail and by road. I refuse to measure entrepreneurs with a double meter. Billboards will also disappear from Prague, the trend is quite clear, only for those billboards it takes a little slower due to different deadlines, “said Čižinský, who is the chairman of the Prague embassy and the mayor of Prague 7 throughout Prague.
He also claims that the criticized policy is coming to an end, when the city has repeatedly extended the owners of billboards of the old land lease agreement, which can circumvent the regulation provided by the Prague building regulations.
However, they are blaming the owner of the advertising tarpaulins for two meters and give the situation in Argentinská Street as an example, where the advertising tarpaulin is to disappear from the gable of one of the buildings according to the decree, but the billboards will remain on the adjacent city land. And they remind you that Jan Čižinský, as the star of Prague 7, signed four completely new lease agreements with the owners of these advertising media at the end of last year.
The mayor does not hide this, but nevertheless describes this criticism from the operators of advertising sails as “outrageous”. He states that the contracts were signed after first leading a lawsuit with the owners of the City Hall of Prague 7, and in the event of a loss, they would never get rid of the billboards on the incriminated plots again.
“So we preferred to make peace with them and sign completely new contracts, which guarantee that we now have full control over the situation. We definitely want to continue to fight every visual smog, “says Čižinský for the News List.
More money for Bigboard?
The owners of the tarpaulins also claim that, as the new regulation is set, they play into the cards of the Bigboard group, which is not only the dominant player on the outdoor advertising market in Prague and has a number of orders from the capital. According to them, the new regulation will only lead to an increase in prices and revenues from those advertising media that are not affected by the new regulation.
“The municipality fights visual smog purposefully and in the media, but still does not solve the most important part, which are free-standing advertising spaces – billboards and bigboards – which are run mainly by the Bigboard group,” says the chairman of the Association of Czech Outdoor Advertising and co-owner of Super poster Jan Soušek.
In this spirit, it also looks at the current activities of the management of Prague, which has already had advertising benches removed from the streets and announces that by the end of the year, free-standing advertising panels, the so-called city light showcases, will also disappear. Soušek claims that the city actually only needs those advertising spaces that do not belong to the Bigboard.
The Bigboard group, which, in addition to other business, also has several advertising tarpaulins, but is opposed to this attack by smaller competitors. She states that she will also be affected by the new regulation.
“As the number one in the outdoor advertising market, we will be the most damaged by this regulation of the municipality. Our losses will amount to tens of millions of crowns, specifically we will lose, for example, the most lucrative advertising tarpaulin in Prague, which is located in Slovan garages. Mr. Soušek, the owner of a small company, may have spread rumors that the regulation is for us, an unknown reason for us, “George Kisugite, CEO of the Bigboard Group, responds to the outages.
It is not yet possible to estimate what the uprising of the owners of advertising sails will have to see, whether there will be an “violent” liquidation ex officio, as if it happened with billboards around highways, for example. Capital spokesman Vít Hofman did not say how the municipality would proceed if the advertising tarpaulins remained on the buildings after 1 October.
“Advertising equipment, which is covered by the decree and which does not need to be removed, will be dealt with subsequently,” the spokesman said.