Rolling up its sleeves, BBMP goes on overdrive removing advertisements on hoardings

When you stop to admire what remains of the city's foliage, you're also forced to consider whether you pledge your gold and walk out with a tidy sum in minutes or appreciate the fact that some venal neighbourhood politician is widening the road for your own good or if you should urgently buy that brand of cement.

Yes, dear reader, we're talking about the ubiquitous hoardings whose gigantic frames bombard you with multiple messages. Now, in some places, some of the messages are incomplete — being peeled off or tattered — or even blank, framed only by their skeletal props. Whether you agree with the medium or the message, the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) is all set to introduce the new advertisement bye-law policy.

In packages

The BBMP Council on June 28 approved the move to “auction-cum-tender” the hoardings in packages henceforth. “We will be auctioning off the advertisement rights for hoardings, including those on private properties, for small stretches. For example, we may auction off x number of hoardings on M.G. Road, on, say, the stretch between Anil Kumble Circle and Trinity Circle. We will fix the base rate and the highest bidder will get the ad rights,” an official said.

Ruling Party Leader in the BBMP Council B.R. Nanjundappa said that this way, the BBMP hoped to earn more revenue through ad tax.

“Auctioning of the hoardings will also increase competition among the various outdoor advertisers. The advertiser who wins the bid will not be allowed to put up more than the permitted number of hoardings. This will also mean that he will not allow other advertisers to put up hoardings in his area,” he said.

The BBMP's Legal Cell had gone into an overdrive trying to have the over 700 stay orders vacated in various courts, he said.

Revenue target

Last year, the BBMP had set a target of collecting Rs. 100 crore as advertisement tax but managed to collect only Rs. 38 crore. This year, with the new policy, it hopes to rake in between Rs. 120 crore and Rs. 150 crore.

Senior officials said that the auction-cum-tender would be done through the e-procurement platform. After June-end, the civic body was not accepting any renewal applications as they hoped to make use of the new ad policy as soon as possible.

However, they admitted Mayor Sharadamma was yet to accord her approval. “It is only after that can we send the bye-laws to the Government seeking its approval,” they added.

Advertisers unhappy

The advertisers are not happy with the move. Members of the Outdoor Advertisers Association, on condition of anonymity, told The Hindu that they were not consulted when the BBMP “unilaterally decided to change the advertisement policy”.

Both the sides had worked together for nearly four years and framed the advertisement bye-laws in 2006, which came into effect on January 12, 2007. They said that initially, the civic body granted the permission to advertisers for three years.

“Our renewal applications were put on hold in 2009. We reapplied in May 2010 and even paid the taxes. However, the demand drafts were returned in July 2010 and the officials told us the new policy was being framed,” they said.

Figures don't match

The aggrieved members pointed out that the annual business estimate of outdoor media in BBMP limits was just Rs. 75 crore.

“When this is the case, how does the BBMP propose to collect Rs. 150 crore?” they asked.

The BBMP had not studied the market before approving the change in the bye-laws. “The 2006 bye-laws are comprehensive. The main problem was that the BBMP did not implement them properly. It cannot change the police to just garner more revenue,” one of the members pointed out.

The new policy cannot be implemented until the Government issues a gazette notification, calls for objections and issues yet another gazette notification.

“Only after this can the Government amend the bye-laws. So for now, the old bye-laws hold good,” the members said.

They added that with the BBMP swooping down on advertisements, nearly 50,000 people who are dependent on the business would be rendered jobless.

“Though the High Court of Karnataka has directed the BBMP to maintain status quo, officials are removing ads from the hoardings. If we have to wait for the new policy to come into effect, we will have to close our business as we will incur huge losses,” said an industry insider.

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