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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Traffic Police Can Remove Outdoor Ads

MTThe co-author of new rules on outdoor advertising says banners like these on Tverskaya Ultisa are being targeted.

New federal regulations came into force Tuesday allowing traffic police to remove outdoor advertisements that block streetlights, road signs and diminish road safety in other ways.

An ad industry insider warned that up to 80 percent of all existing outdoor advertisements were at risk, while the co-author of the bill insisted that the rules mainly applied to advertising banners strung over streets.

“The authorities might remove up to 80 percent of existing street banners and billboards because just a fifth of them correspond to the [new] requirements. And all new banners are illegal from Sept. 1,” said Sergei Shumovsky, who tracks the outdoor ad market with Espar Analytics.

But Vladislav Elizarov, co-author of the new rules, said there was no reason to panic.

“Only existing banners that threaten traffic safety by blocking street lights, road signs, et cetera, will be removed. This issue will be decided by local authorities and coordinated with the traffic police,” Elizarov, a traffic police official with the Interior Ministry’s Scientific Research Institute for Traffic Safety, told The Moscow Times.

Elizarov said traffic police officers would have to obtain a court order before tearing down an ad deemed as risking road safety.

Elizarov also said enforcement of the new rules is voluntary for now and will only become obligatory after the government approves a range of new regulatory standards, probably next year.

But from Tuesday, advertisers will be required to seek special permission to raise new billboards and other outdoor ads, he said.

The new rules were issued in an order by the Federal Service for Technical Regulations and Measures in March in line with a 2006-12 federal program on traffic safety.

Moscow has the most banners of any city in Russia, with an annual turnover of 2.5 billion rubles ($78.7 million), or 11 percent of the market, according to Espar Analytics.

Mosgorreklama, which owns a third of the street banners in Moscow, said it was not worried. Its deputy director, Danil Pershin, stressed that the rubles were voluntary, and company spokeswoman Ksenia Golikova said the changes “will only effect new installations, and the regulations aren’t rigid.”

News Outdoor official Irina Komissarova said her company was not directly affected because it mostly dealt with billboards.

Shumovsky, the analyst, voiced skepticism about the need for the new rules. He said the traffic police already had a say in outdoor advertising and had used various methods to remove unwanted ads. As an example, he noted that in 2007 the traffic police withdrew permission for billboards on the median strip of the Moscow Ring Road. “In two days, all 2,500 small-sized billboards were removed,” he said.

Vladislav Litovka, editor of the industry web site Outdoor.ru, said the simplest way to remove an existing banner was to not prolong the contract.

Litovka described the new rules as an expansion of the old ones, which forbade banners from being hung over main highways, like the MKAD. “Now new banners are not allowed over ordinary streets,” he said.