Illegal billboard owners still playing cat-and-mouse game with the authorities


Czech highways and first-class roads are dotted with illegal billboards. For over twenty years now the authorities have been engaged in a cat and mouse game with their owners who frequently move them from place to place. A new amendment to the road law, due to come into force next year, should put an end to that.

Since the 2017 approval of a law banning advertising billboards from the sides of all motorways and first class roads, close to five thousand such illegal billboards have been removed from roads around the country. And municipalities, towns and regions say that, despite the legislation, the struggle to deal with visual pollution, particularly close to cities, has not got any easier. Michal Šebek, deputy mayor of České Budějovice says those putting them up are always a step ahead.

Photo: Anna Herfortová,  Czech Radio

"By the time we go through the set bureaucratic procedure – i.e. inform the given party that they are violating the rules, ask them to take down the billboard and give them thirty days to respond - the billboard in question will have been dismantled and moved to another plot of land. At that point we have to close the first case, open a new one and go through the same rigmarole."

Photo: Barbora Němcová,  Radio Prague International

Jan Rýdl, spokesman for the Roads and Motorways Directorate, says companies putting up illegal billboards use various tricks to circumvent the rules.

"They hide information about the owner of the billboard, they don’t respond to calls, they frequently move the offensive billboard from place to place or transfer its ownership to other entities.”

All this should be stopped by a legislative change due to go into effect from January 2024. The obligation to remove illegal advertising will be transferred from the road administration authority directly to the owner of the road. And they will be able to act first and inform the owner of the illegal billboard later. Michal Šebek says the legislative change will make a big difference.

"It gives road owners the right to act quickly, remove the illegal billboard and then inform the party concerned without even having to identify them, just place the information on the respective web."

Photo: Barbora Němcová,  Radio Prague International

Both the regions, city authorities and the Road and Motorway Directorate are confident that the large number of illegal advertisements along the roads will start disappearing as soon as the amended law comes into force and that others will not go up to replace them.

Authors: Daniela Lazarová , Matěj Vodička | Source: Český rozhlas
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