Billboards – what billboards?

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Billboards have long been part of our culture and have been popping up here there and anywhere all over the place throughout the world. We seem to love to clutter up our landscape with anything that makes money.

A visit to Tokyo includes, whether you want to or not, the viewing of walls of illuminated billboards on the sides of buildings and anywhere else they can find to squeeze them.

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Drive off into the countryside here in Australia and the billboards take various forms and advertise just about anything. Most are big and bold and designed to catch your attention was you drive past. Not all are attractive and not all succeed.

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In Canberra, we do not have billboards. They have been banned for most of Canberra’s history. The exception being church signs, the occasional real estate development notice of new estates being built and the special ones erected for special events. Schools have also taken to having a large sign to provide dates, enrollment notices and sometimes some well-meaning slogans.

A decade or so ago a company received permission to place advertisements in the bus shelters around town. At the time there was a few objections to these, but despite that they remain. The bus shelters that come with the illuminated signs consist of basic metal designs – they are not very attractive and provide just enough shelter on most days and very little on others.

But then there is the case of what can be seen along on the eastern side of Limestone Avenue on the side of the football field just past the corner with Wakefield.

As with most sports fields, there are advertising places around the edges – usually involving sponsors and in the case of televised games, carefully placed signs to be captured during the live coverage.

However the billboards alongside the Ainslie sports field have been placed just inside the fence and are facing out — away from the punters inside the field. The placement of these billboards seems to fly in the face of the intent behind banning roadside billboards.

Worse than that, most are badly designed with one not even telling you where to find the business being advertised. A couple of the others are almost unreadable to passing traffic. The end result is clutter. Is this is what is allowed these days?

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If the placement of these roadside billboards is allowed through some loophole, one wonders who else could place a billboard inside their fence line and collect that extra bit of advising revenue. Maybe Canberra’s many churches should cease telling us about God and being good, and they could get to work placing signage that will bring in income to paint that roof or to provide for those new chairs.

I suspect that the billboards at Ainslie have appeared because the law covering roadside billboards is silent on organisations having such signs within their fences but facing the road. Not good.

I suggest this is one for the Minister to consider if he/she is interested in maintaining the basis of the policies for Canberra that define the aesthetic urban features that are encouraged and those that are disallowed.

Then again, maybe I could have a large billboard or two in my front yard and raise funds for that next holiday!

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Paul Costigan

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