Bristol becomes first UK city to ban ads for junk food, payday loans and gambling
Campaigners want the council to go further and ban advertisements for “climate-destroying products” like cars and airlines.
Bristol became the first city outside of London to implement an advertising policy restricting advertisements on council-owned spaces and junk food and alcohol billboards. But its policy goes further than that of other local authorities and also prohibits advertisements for payday loans and gambling sites.
Bristol City Council says its advertising and sponsorship policy, unanimously approved at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday March 9, is “the most comprehensive of its kind in England”.
The policy will restrict all advertising that violates the new board rules and any business using board owned space. This includes notice boards, the city’s 180 bus stops, social media and digital screens in all council locations, including libraries and museums.
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Local campaign group Adblock says this is a good first step, but asked the council to go further and also ban advertising of high carbon products and services, such as SUVs, companies. airlines and fossil fuel companies.
Mayor Marvin Rees said the council was “willing to take the financial risk – and there is a risk for us in that – to get much bigger public health rewards.”
The council estimated that if other companies do not come forward to replace the banned advertisements, the ‘reasonable worst case scenario’ of loss could be in the order of £ 150,000 per year, but this cost must be offset by a reduction the risk of harm to public health and the costs associated with these products and services. Fears of lower revenues after a similar move in London, however, did not materialize. Transport for London has predicted losses of up to £ 35million per year for its policy of advertising healthier food, which may have resulted in ticket prices rising, but advertising revenue actually did increased by £ 2.3million (pre-pandemic).
Bristol’s new policy also bans advertising in the parks – unless it’s for an event taking place there – which activists are celebrating as a big victory. The council had proposed to introduce advertisements in city parks, but it was put on hold in 2018, after a 4,000-strong petition forced a full council debate on its impact.
VSamputating call for a ban on ads for SUVs, airlines and fossil fuels
The council’s policy is “an important first step,” say Adblock campaigners, but they say the restrictions should go further. Adblock has brought a petition with 1,000 signatures calling on Bristol to “end advertising on products that destroy the climate”, similar to what Amsterdam passed in December. But since Bristol would be the first local authority to introduce such a ban, the council is expected to launch a public consultation, which would only be possible after the local elections in May. That would have meant the policy wouldn’t be introduced until much later this year, missing the window of opportunity to influence some of its larger contracts.
“We are disappointed that the council did not include a ban on high carbon products in the exclusion list, but it is a good first step,” Adblock spokesman Robbie Gillett told Cable , adding that the petition “demonstrates a public mandate for the council to take this step.”
Green Party councilor Carla Denyer said the city’s new policy would prevent ads on council property from undermining the council’s own public health policies, but added that the exclusions needed to go further: “In particular, to include a ban on advertising of high carbon products and services, and to adopt similar policies when planning so that these rules can apply in time to all corporate advertising and not just to those held by the council. “
Gillett said he believed there was a desire to extend these policies to the planning stage – where new billboards would not be built in the first place – as this would ultimately enable residents and advisers save a lot of time.
“It’s likely that this advertising policy stems in part from the frustration of advisors having to spend so much time managing the scheduling applications for new digital billboards.”
“Residents have to spend a lot of time fighting fires in unique applications when in reality they should be dealt with at the political level.”