Fabian Demicoli

The problems introduced by LN 103/2016 are multiple and serious

1. One size fits all
 
The law that may have had scope to perhaps orderly organise the billboards that we see scattered around our roads has stretched to cover any form of advertisement. Advertisement is defined as any word, letter, model, sign, 
placard, board, notice, device or representation, whether illuminated or not for the purposes of advertisement, including any boarding or similar used for the display of advertisements, including a billboard.
 
 
The Regulations go on to state that no advertisement shall be displayed or be illuminated in any place that is visible from the road without the permission of the Authority. This in practice literally means that all advertisements that are visible from a road
will be regarded in the same manner, irrelevant if these are done within one’s private property or on public land and if these are advertising the goods sold within the shop or if the advert is a commercial one, and will require a Planning Authority permit at a fee and will also pay a yearly license of Eur 1,500 every year to Transport Malta.
 
2. A misleading and irrelevant exemption
 
GRTU was shocked to realise that the law goes as far as including shop signs and other advertisements that might be affixed to the façade. This with the exception of signs not more than 0.5 square meters in area that are fitted flat against the façade or fascia and is not a projecting sign and as long as there are no more than two such advertisements per shop.
 
The 0.5m2 exemptions was introduced in the 1993 law because this was the standard practice in the 1980s and the sign and advertising industry has since then significantly advanced. In practice any sign today falls outside this size and therefore is subject to the law.
 
3. Reinforcing an outdated and never before enforced law
 
GRTU was disappointed to see that a new law released by the Parliamentary Secretary for Simplification of Administrative Burdens was in no way simplified and elements that should have clearly been removed because they are outdated and not enforceable have been renewed in the new law.
 
Just to give one example, a disturbing requirement is that any advertisement, including a shop sign, must bear the Authority’s reference number for its permission and this must be included as an integral part of the advertisement design in a permanent, clear and legible manner. This negatively impacts the design of logos and signage both future and even more so those existing and overlooks the fact that this goes against the branding rules of franchises.
 
4. Conceived, introduced and enforced overnight
 
GRTU is aggravated by the fact that the Legal Notice has overnight placed great strain on the sector that is now faced with a situation where it is not able to honor advertisement commitments made before the law was published. Operators were put under pressure to resubmit the paperwork of their permits with the Planning Authority by Monday 11th April after Planning Authority officials reportedly called the clients of billboards operators informing them that if the billboard is not regulated a fine
of between Eur 1000 and Eur 5000 will be applied.
 
GRTU condemns the method in which this law came into force in total disrespect of the principles of transparency and consultation. The law has hastily attempted to address an issue that has been in existence for a lengthy amount of years in the most incorrect of manners. Moreover, the Planning Authority has been sitting on the permit applications for over two years without giving any form of feedback.
 
The law has not assessed the significant impact it will be having on enterprises across Malta and has induced a money making mechanism that will throw enterprises in an even more precarious situation.

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