ACT News


ACT government doubles down on need for reform after billboard backlash

Australia's peak body for outdoor advertising approached the ACT government and the National Capital Authority to consider changes to its outdoor signage rules a year before ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr flagged a review of the billboard ban.

The Outdoor Media Association represents most of Australia's outside and out-of-home media display companies and production facilities, as well as some media display asset owners.

General manager Tess Phillips said they first approached the ACT government 18 months ago to talk about "activating urban spaces" with wayfinding signage and Wi-Fi hubs, although the body "regularly engages" all state and territory governments across Australia.

"Given the changes afoot to modernise and globalise our capital, as evidenced by international flights from Canberra Airport and the light rail development, the OMA has actively queried the ACT government about its strict stance on third-party advertising," Ms Phillips said.

"Looking ahead, the ACT light rail project will be costly. This is a positive opportunity for OMA members to work with the ACT government to explore the provision of advertising revenue through signage in stations, on light rail infrastructure itself, or the development of appropriately positioned large format advertising signs on the light rail route."

The approach from industry was revealed in the ACT government's submission to an inquiry into the ACT's billboard ban. 


While the government acknowledged concerns about visual pollution and safety, it doubled down on the need to update the rules governing billboards, saying they were "outdated" and promoted "inconsistent outcomes for advertising across Canberra".

"It is no longer clear they meet community or advertising industry expectations and needs," the submission said.

"Increased advertising has the potential to generate economic activity in the territory from the advertising itself (investment in infrastructure and related income stream) and the promotion of the advertised good or service. Other jurisdictions derive revenue from outdoor advertising."

Their submission floated the idea of govenrment-run digital billboards, which could be rented to an advertiser for a certain time and provide traffic, event or community information for the rest.

Any government-owned billboards would likely align with the existing rules for bus advertising  which ban spruiking of alcohol, junk food and cigarettes, the submission said.

Meanwhile the organiser of a petition against relaxing the billboard ban says it now has enough signatures to be referred to an Assembly committee.

Drawing on Deb Cleland and Dr Lisa Petheram's Keep CBR Nude campaign, Downer resident Sam Hussey-Smith and others got their kit off on Black Mountain to protest any rule changes for large-scale outdoor advertisements.

"Fortunately, it was a sunny day and there were plenty of other people there, young and old. Someone even brought their dog along," Mr Hussey-Smith said. 

"I do think there's a case for modernising the regulations but my sense is that, if anything, people are looking for a tightening of the rules around the public advertising we already see on bus stops, commercial buildings and election corflutes. That's to say nothing of introducing billboards, a proposal for which I've been unable to find a single person in support of."

The petition now has 500 signatures with a fortnight left to go, and Liberal MLA Elizabeth Lee will table it in the Assembly at the start of August.