31 August 2021

Are there too many advertisements in Canberra?

| Dominic Giannini
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An ad at a bus stop

Advertisements are allowed at Canberra bus shelters. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The ACT’s long-held ban on public advertising is under threat, according to activists who say “illegal ads” are proliferating across the city on bus shelters and vehicles.

Billboards have been banned in the ACT since the 1930s, although they can be approved on the sides of private buildings and private land through the development application process.

There have been multiple debates on the issue, most recently in 2016 when Chief Minister Andrew Barr suggested that a limited amount of digital display advertising might mitigate the proliferation of billboards on vehicles, including trucks and trailers.

Canberra’s ACTION buses can be fully wrapped in advertising and are highly sought after for their visibility while ads can also be placed on Canberra’s bus shelters due to an exception in the National Capital Plan.

It’s these loopholes that the Greens candidate for the seat of Canberra, Tim Hollo, wants closed.

He’s petitioning the ACT Government to remove advertising materials that block windows on buses and trams and introduce a specific offence for roadside advertising that used parked vehicles, describing it as “a socially, economically and environmentally destructive, and fundamentally undemocratic, practice”.

“It is also hugely unpopular in the ACT, having been the subject of sustained community campaigning to protect our relatively ad-free status,” he said.

The Greens have also been behind the proposed ban on election corflutes following last year’s election. That move was strongly opposed by other parties, including the Canberra Liberals and the Belco Party, who said they were an important way to build recognition, especially for lesser-known candidates.

READ ALSO Ban election corflutes and gambling donations, ACT committee recommends

But partner and director of marketing agency Coordinate, Warran Apps, told Region Media that the ACT already had the strictest outdoor advertising requirements in Australia, and while the current framework should be reviewed, the petition’s “ban-all” approach was extreme.

“We would be calling for a more nuanced debate and a reasonable set of evidence-based regulations that recognise the need to prevent a proliferation of outdoor advertising against the reality of the more urbanised city we now live in,” he said.

“Experiences around the world, especially in places like Washington DC, demonstrate that well-regulated outdoor advertising in appropriate locations has a role to play in creating a more active and visually interesting built environment.

“It also provides smaller, local businesses with an important mechanism for local area promotion.”

‘Sign creep’ was identified as an issue in a 2017 ACT Legislative Assembly Committee review of the Territory’s billboard laws. The enquiry attracted a record 166 submissions, most of them strongly opposed to any changes.

The review subsequently recommended creating clear and accessible reporting avenues where the public could lodge complaints about signage in the ACT.

Following the Committee’s report, the government said it would review the complexities of the legal framework in 2018, but Planning Minister Mick Gentleman noted there was “no appetite from the community for Canberra to become Times Square”.

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ChrisinTurner2:02 pm 06 Sep 21

During a recent road trip through Queensland, where billboard advertising is open slather, about half the billboards were advertising the space was available to hire. An eyesore. Billboards have obviously passed their use-by date.

rationalobserver8:42 am 03 Sep 21

Imagine if the avalanche of overly officious “official” signage we have today was allowed to be supplemented by private sector marketing?
Not long ago there was a hand drawn sign at the Federal Highway border complaining about the number of signs, and once your attention was draw to it there were signs everywhere in that few hundred meters. Enough.

Mark Chenery2:51 pm 01 Sep 21

I moved to Canberra from Sydney six years ago and love how free of advertising this city is. Outdoor advertising is both ugly and offensive. I like being able to walk and drive around Canberra without being screamed at from every angle to buy more stuff. That’s the last thing this city needs.

I would have mentioned this but you beat me to it. Anyone who has been to Sydney can’t help but see the absolute blizzard of advertising that hits you from every angle, all the time. It’s the visual equivalent of leaf blowers that never switch off. Coming back in to Canberra is bliss in comparison.

I reckon Tim Hollo should be more concerned about the 730 bus stops his party were involved in removing across Canberra for the new bus network in 2019.

I reckon more than a few people in Tuggeranong and Belconnen would happily take back their old bus route wrapped in advertising and their nearest bus shelter.

Looks like Another case of the Greens getting their priorities wrong.

On reflection, Maybe Rattenbury and Barr took away people’s buses to save them from seeing the advertising? ?

ChrisinTurner1:43 pm 01 Sep 21

The wraps on the trams look terrible. Almost as bad as the SA trams. Bus stops are OK.

ACT has at least two huge billboards – one at the intersection of Pialligo Ave and Fairbairn Ave, and another at the intersection of Constitution Ave and Corranderrk St (the latter being a traffic hazard as it is far too bright at night, particularly in contrast to Constitution Ave where the street lights don’t seem to work half the time). There are also a few smaller ones on Monaro Hwy (between Morshead Dr and Newcastle St) – you can’t seriously tell me ACT has a ban on billboards.

ChrisinTurner1:45 pm 01 Sep 21

Our largest billboards must be the ones on the Canberra Centre. How they were ever approved beats me. Should be investigated by the anti-corruption mob.

They are exceptions which are covered in the article.

Typical Greens socialist approach.i

No wonder I saw a story recently that Canberra is the ‘worst business environment’ in Australia, the leftists will only be happy when everyone either is a public servant or on the dole. It has always been the case that Canberra only has enough of a private sector to serve the government. It’s time the Federal government abolish self government and turn Canberra into a more conventional city without ruining what’s left of it after Barr’s urban vandalism.

What does your rant have to do with billboard advertising?

And you will find, provided my maths hasn’t been corrupted by the evil self government that when the billboard ban was put in place there was no self government. I’m sure the ban was in place for 50-60 years beforehand.

When self-government was implemented in 1989 we had the biggest and most offensive billboard we’ve ever had at the end of Northbourne Avenue going into Vernon Circle. Nobody knows how it got there or who approved it. Under self-government, removing that billboard was one of the first orders of business for the new assembly.

Don’t recall that John. What was it?

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