Advertisement hoardings: What BBMP Council wants vs what the state govt insists on


59,413 illegal hoardings were identified in the past four months. File pic: Kedar Koushik

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at the tussle between BBMP and state government on allowing advertisement hoardings in the city. Last year, the BBMP Council passed draft bye-laws that ban commercial hoardings. But the state government’s UDD (Urban Development Department) recently framed its own Rules that allow hoardings.

It’s still unclear which of these laws would prevail. The High Court recently upheld the BBMP bye-laws at a PIL hearing, but the final judgement is pending in the case. And the UDD continues to insist on implementing its own Rules.

In this part of the series, we look at how the two laws differ, and these would affect the city if approved.

The draft Outdoor Signage and Public  Messaging Bye-laws, 2018, that the BBMP Council passed unanimously last year, bans all commercial billboards and hoardings on the public right-of-way. The bye-laws aims to promote traffic safety by minimising distractions, and to prohibit materials harmful to the environment.

Once approved, these bye-laws would replace BBMP’s own 2006 advertising bye-laws that allowed hoardings for a fee. The Palike had suffered huge revenue losses over the years as many advertisers put up hoardings illegally, without payment.

BBMP bye-laws are based on a court order

The Council had passed the new bye-laws because of a High Court order. Last year, the court had ordered BBMP to remove all illegal hoardings in the city, and to pass a resolution to ban all outdoor ads for a year. Court also ordered BBMP to draft a new ad policy. This order was based on three writ petitions filed by activists.

The petitioners had pointed to reports by K Mathai, the then-BBMP Assistant Commissioner (Advertising), who had unearthed an advertisement scam. In his reports, Mathai pegged the Palike’s revenue loss from illegal hoardings at Rs 2000 crore between 2005 and 2015. The court order also came just months after the plastic ban in the state, and when increasing number of cases were being reported under the Karnataka Open Spaces (Prevention of Disfigurement Act), 1981.

Swati Ramanathan, Chairperson of the non-profit Jana Urban Space Foundation, says in an article in the Hindustan Times, that BBMP Council had promoted the new bye-laws, as it would “retain moral high ground” and because “the municipal revenue from advertising tax was a paltry Rs 26 crore annually from about 2500 licensed hoardings, with an equal number (of hoardings) estimated to be illegal.”

She further says, “Bengalureans may expect to see a lot more of their city sky,” if the new bye-laws see the light of day. Jana Urban Space had supported the BBMP in formulating the draft bye-laws.

UDD Rules allow hoardings, but with restrictions

In contrast, the UDD Rules allows advertisers to erect hoardings and flexes in the city, subject to restrictions. The hoardings have to be approved by the BBMP commissioner, and will have to display the commissioner’s permission and the fee paid. However, hoardings shouldn’t obstruct the view of public gardens or historic buildings, shouldn’t endanger public safety, and can’t interfere with traffic signals, or have words like Stop, Look, Detour, Danger etc.

The Rules also ban ads within 50 m of religious places and within 100 m of roads leading to religious places. Ads are also not allowed within 3.5 m from the edge of any flyover, railway bridge, communication tower, road crossing, national park or water body. The advertiser will have to pay permission fee of Rs 1.25 lakh per annum for a hoarding, and a fine of Rs 1000 per day for violating any rule.

Here are some major differences between the UDD Rules and the BBMP bye-laws:

UDD’s ‘BBMP Advertisement Rules, 2019’  BBMP’s ‘Outdoor Signage and Public  Messaging Bye-laws, 2018’
Commercial hoardings are allowed, provided they don’t damage public amenities, obstruct the view of historical buildings or distract motorists No commercial hoardings within BBMP’s jurisdiction
Hoardings can be put up without building possession certificate Building possession certificate needed to erect hoardings
​Sponsored ads are permitted on bus shelters, skywalks, bridges, e-toilets, e-vehicle charging stations and traffic police chowki. Sponsored ads permitted on bus shelters, pedestrian bridges and underpasses, e-toilets, public parks and grounds, street furniture and stadiums. Public messages and street-enhancing public art are also allowed with prior approval.
No ads on heritage buildings, national parks, regional ecosystems, parks, playgrounds and water bodies. Video ads are also banned No roof signages, dynamic electronic displays, audio displays, flashy electronic animated signs. Also, no balloon ads, or ads on trees

Allowing hoardings would harm the city again, Mayor says

On August 8th, Mayor Gangambike Mallikarjun wrote to the UDD, rejecting its Rules on the following grounds:

  • The new rules allow hoardings to be put up on buildings without a possession certificate, but this is mandatory according to the KMC Act, BBMP Building bye-laws and the BBMP Advertisement bye-law, 2006
  • The prices fixed for outdoor advertisements are low, and would harm BBMP’s financial situation
  • The new law compromises on traffic safety and aesthetic beauty of the city
  • The new law proposes to bring outdoor hoardings back, which may make way for illegal hoardings, as happened previously

[So should Bengaluru have hoardings – what do citizens think? What are the revenue implications, and how have other cities dealt with hoardings? We explore these questions in part 3 of the series.]

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About Kedar Koushik 16 Articles
Kedar Koushik was an Associate Editor at Citizen matters