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BYE BYE BILLBOARD: City council ban junk food adverts and more

BYE BYE BILLBOARD: City council ban junk food adverts and more

Image: LDRS

Campaigners have welcomed a Bristol City Council ban on adverts for junk food, booze, gambling and pay-day loans – but want it to go further.

Cabinet members approved the authority’s first ever advertising and sponsorship policy prohibiting certain products from being displayed on bus shelters, billboards and digital screens it owns.

It could cost the council up to £150,000 in lost revenue but that is deemed a price worth paying for the potential public health benefits.

The policy bans ads for food that are “high in fat, salt and/or sugar” as well as any in its parks and green spaces “unless for an outlet or event operating within that space”.

But it has control only over what is placed on about 180 bus shelters, 17 hoardings, social media channels and numerous screens at venues such as museums, libraries and customer service points across the city.

Campaign group Adblock Bristol is urging mayor Marvin Rees to expand it to cover environmentally damaging goods, such as polluting cars, and privately owned billboards.

Organisation member Jenny Howard Coles said: “This is a good start, but what we really need to see is a wholesale reduction in the amount of corporate outdoor advertising on our streets and a ban on climate-wrecking products across the whole city.”

Asked by Anna Meares at the cabinet meeting on Tuesday, March 9, whether the council’s planning department would review its policy on all advertising sites in Bristol, Mr Rees said: “They will be doing it right now because the issue is being brought very forcefully.

“We did talk about it as we were bringing the policy through but we focused on the health and gambling because that was something we knew we could get our hands around and really be firm on.

“When you get into carbon it becomes a lot looser and difficult to pin down.”

John Stansfield, of Bristol Animal Rebellion, asked the mayor: “Does the council believe it is morally acceptable to promote environmentally destructive products and brands in its public spaces given its own actions and commitments to combat the climate crisis?”

Mr Rees replied: “I’m always a little bit wary of moral judgements but we do know there are some priorities – we set out in the climate strategy, ecological strategy and our economic recovery strategy that we need to decarbonise the economy.

“When we are making moral equivalencies it’s a tricky world.

“This does bring us revenue, and some of our revenue is spent on services we would also consider a moral priority and requirement to deliver an inclusive city

“We’re willing to take the financial risk to achieve much greater public reward.

“We will go as quick as we can but we have to do it in the face of a lot of other challenges.”

Green Cllr Carla Denyer, who has been lobbying the authority alongside Adblock Bristol, said: “I’m glad they took on board a lot of our suggestions.

“I would like the council to go further, though.

“We need to see better regulation of all corporate outdoor advertising in the city, not just ones owned by the council – which means we need the council to create new advertising policies in its planning rules.

“And to help Bristol meet its target of going carbon neutral by 2030 we need to stop the onslaught of adverts telling us to buy more high-carbon products and services such as flights, fossil fuel companies and the most polluting cars.”

A report to cabinet said: “Consideration was given to additional advertising restrictions in support of the council’s environmental aims.

“In the absence of any suitable national standards or local authority precedents, the council would need to identify and restrict particular industries, goods or services.

“Because it would be the first authority to do so, formal public consultation would be necessary.

“Any such consultation would not be possible until after local elections due to national restrictions during pre-election period.

“The consequence of doing this would be to delay implementing any policy until much later in 2021, by which time the council would have missed the opportunity to put the policy into action on at least one of its larger advertising concession contracts, with no further practical chance to do so for several years.”

Words: Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporter,


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