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Government, ad agencies clash over billboard demolitions

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A plan by Kunming's municipal government to remove more than 200 outdoor billboards within the city has drawn severe criticism from advertising agencies, according to a China Daily report.

Yesterday the China Youth Daily reported that the Kunming urban administration bureau had issued a notice to advertising companies in July that 245 outdoor billboards would be dismantled by the end of November.

Officials in the bureau said that 207 of the billboards did not have installation licenses or had expired licenses but that licenses for 38 of the billboards were valid. According to an unnamed advertising professional quoted in the story, nearly all of the billboards have been torn down.

Lei Qiang, deputy general manager of Fengchi Media Corporation, a major advertising company in Kunming, said that his company had already suffered from previous government campaigns against billboards. Last year when the government dismantled billboards inside the second ring road, Fengchi had to fire 30 percent of its staff and reduce salaries by 15 percent, Qiang said.

"The city government's arbitrary decision to tear down all outdoor advertising billboards in the urban area is not based on any domestic law or regulation," Qiang said. "Many of our billboards had licenses and permission before being installed, but we cannot survive after the authorities' series of crackdowns."

Executives at other ad companies also reported having billboards torn down despite having obtained proper licenses, with their appeals to the government falling on deaf ears.

Ad execs aren't the only people voicing concern about the Kunming government destroying billboards that have valid licenses, Phoenix TV deputy director Cao Jingxing said the city should honor legal agreements made in the past.

"What's happening in Kunming has already happened earlier in other cities, in order to give the city a makeover the billboards were demolished – if this is what the average person wants, then of course it's a good thing," Cao said.

"But when demolishing billboards, one should first ask 'When these billboards were erected, had they been approved by the city?' 'Did they or did they not satisfy regulations and laws at that time?' If they were legal and were approved, and the billboards were demolished only because the city wants to revise its rules from years ago, then the city should be responsible for the losses incurred [by the advertising companies]."

Telephone calls by the China Daily to Kunming's urban administration bureau were not answered.

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Tear those billboards down asap. Almost everything in this city is plastered with adds and commercials to a point where I can't understand why the Chinese don't complain about it more. Eyesores.

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