The City has become aware of the heightened efforts by unscrupulous media owners of erecting advertising signs on both public and private land without Council’s approval as required in terms of the 2009 Outdoor Advertising Bylaws.
The Members of the Mayoral Committee, for Economic Development Cllr, Leah Knott and for Development Planning, Cllr Reuben Masango are working together with ward councillors, the outdoor advertising industry and other stakeholders to curb the scourge.
Both Development Planning and Economic Development (through the Joburg Property Company) undertook site inspections to collate information on the said signs. This is after Council approved a 36 month Transitional Period on the 14th March 2019.
In light of this resolution by Council, the City issued a public notice on the 01 August 2019 inviting all owners of any advertising sign on any land to declare it to the City by not later than 30 September 2019, irrespective of its legality. The notice applies to all existing advertising signs that were erected and have been in existence prior to the declaration of the Transitional Period by Council.
The “Transitional Period”, must be understood to be a principle that regulates the period that starts before an amendment or enactment of a law comes into force, and ends after the amendment or enactment of the law has come into force. At this stage, the new Bylaws have not come into force hence this declaration. This was done in an effort to ensure that the sector is not disadvantaged while the new By-laws are suspended due to litigation.
The Council’s resolution to allow a transitional period was intended to, inter alia, address the following:
(a) The growing clutter resulting from illegal advertising within the jurisdiction of the City.
(b) Calling on the public to declare their illegal advertising assets on any land within its jurisdiction. The request for the declaration of illegal signs is made with the intention of mitigating the need for instituting legal proceedings against owners of illegal signs. Once owners declare their illegal
signs to the City, legal proceedings which were to intended to be instituted will be pended in order to allow for discussions between the City and the respective owners. The purpose of the said discussions would be to determine which signs find favour with the City’s by-law (approvable signs) and which ones are contravening the by-law (not approvable). This will enable the City to engage the declaring party as to which signs may be approved and which are not approvable in terms of the by-laws.
(c) To encourage the outdoor advertising industry to comply with the City’s Outdoor Advertising By-Laws and thereby enabling the effective regulation of outdoor advertising as per section 156(1)(a) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996.
(d) To oversee a fair, accountable, inclusive and transparent participation by the industry as a whole.
The City has already undertaken to the sector that it will not take any punitive action against declaring party provided that an agreement is reached on a timeframe to remove such sign if found to be none compliant with the Bylaws.
There is no suggestion in the public notice issued by the City that provides for the current scenario where new advertising signs are illegally erected without due regard to applicable law in an effort to be eligible for such indulgence. What has also become apparent is that these illegally erected advertising structures are not branded to be able to immediately identify their owners.
The City is tracing these faceless companies that are hindering efforts to restore law and order in the sector. This will done through a structured period to phase out illegality from the sector in collaboration with law abiding media owners.
Furthermore, the City has put in place an emergency action plan to enforce its Bylaws and this may include, inter alia, criminally charging the landowner, the signage company and the advertiser to ensure speedy resolution of this unprecedented rampant disregard of the law through applicable policies.
The City therefore calls upon brand owners or advertisers and their advertising agencies whose reputation may be at stake to contact the City in order to confirm legality of any such advertising sign before concluding any media contracts.
It is estimated that just over 90% of all advertising signs in the City across all land ownership do not have the written or required approval of the City in terms of the by-laws and are therefore deemed to be illegal. Advertising signs erected without approval contravene the technical specifications of the by-laws. These illegal signs, often placed near intersections or traffic lights may also pose a safety risk for motorists.
The City has also embarked on a process to amend its 2009 Outdoor Advertising By laws. In the main, amendments to the Bylaws were intended to improve on both the assessment of applications and to improve the law enforcement process. In particular, proposed amendments to the Bylaws will allow the City to take action against offenders where they have erected a sign without Council’s approval.