Motorway billboard ban to take effect Friday

Photo: Barbora Němcová

Around 3,000 roadside billboards around the country should disappear by Friday, though the actual removal process may take longer.

Photo: Barbora Němcová
About 3,000 billboards standing by motorways and first class roads in the Czech Republic should be taken down by September 1, this coming Friday.

An amendment banning such advertising was passed a full five years ago. The unusually long period before implementation was intended to allow time for the resolution of potential disputes with operators.

Now that the deadline has been reached, the authorities will be required to take a number of steps if owners don’t remove billboards voluntarily.

Operators must first be ordered to take down individual hoardings within five days.

If they fail to do so, the Road and Motorway Directorate, the body that oversees the national road network, will then remove them and force the billboard owners to cough up the cost. If they cannot be identified, the owners of the land they stand on have to pay.

Jan Rýdl is the spokesman for the Road and Motorway Directorate.

“We have 15 days in which to cover up these advertising installations. After that we will remove them.”

Given this process and the number of roadside billboards it could be months before they are all gone.

For their part the Union of Operators of Outdoor Advertising say the ban tramples on their rights.

They also argue that the move is driven by ideology not rationale and ignores the fact that roadside ads are good for the economy.

Dan Ťok,  photo: Filip Jandourek
The Union say they will respect the legislative change but that many members will seek compensation for lost profits in the courts, in part because most of the billboard space has been purchased for an unlimited period.

Furthermore, the operators say they will lobby the next government to reverse the change.

For his part, the minister of transport, Dan Ťok, says the prohibition is necessary.

“Every ad that distracts drivers, or anything that distracts them from paying attention when they are at the wheel is harmful.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Transport said that in introducing the ban the Czech Republic was following a number of other states in Europe, including Belgium, Denmark, Germany and Spain.

The new law specifically creates a zone of 200 metres from motorways and 50 metres from roads where adverting hoardings are forbidden. They may be erected further away.

There are around 25,000 billboards in total in the Czech Republic and those in cities and towns are not affected by the change.