JCDecaux Africa prides itself in offering a powerful outdoor advertising medium for the display of commercial products and services and the like and avoids abuse of the privilege granted us by the residents of our community to display our outdoor medium on public streets by averting display of political content, or any content that could be reasonably viewed as offensive or controversial by any sector of the community, unless of course such political display is that provided by bonafide licensed political parties at the time of elections. We also abide by the standards of the Advertising Standards Authority and provide no favour in terms of adherence to our strict policy. Indeed in terms of our contract with the Johannesburg City Council, we are expressly forbidden from displaying any advertising considered contentious in nature.
The Board of Directors
The press and social media have recently been plagued with reports that the City Of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality (“the City”) has “toughened up” its outdoor advertising by-laws by promulgating a new set of by-laws that purportedly regulate the erection of advertising mediums within the jurisdiction of the City. According to these reports, these new by-laws classify illegal signs as a serious crime, the same as building hijackings.
Ill-informed sources further state that the City shall institute criminal charges against inter alia, the advertiser inorder to ensure that applicable by-laws are adhered to. These sources further tend to allude that JCDecaux Africa may in some way be implicated in erecting alleged illegal advertising structures on the City’s property.
The contents of this statement attempts to deal in general with: - Continentals’ rights to erect its advertising structures on the City’s property, its understanding of the City’s outdoor advertising by-laws but in particular, which by-laws are currently applicable and in force, and further attempts to clarify any factual inconsistencies present in press and social media articles, in relation to the City’s outdoor advertising by-laws.
JCDecaux Africa’s master lease agreement with the City Of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality
JCDecaux Africa through its holding and subsidiary companies is part of South Africa and Africa’s largest Outdoor advertising Group. The Group has an established footprint in excess of 25,000 outdoor advertising assets in all the major towns and cities across South Africa and operates in a further 13 sub-Saharan African countries. As such, it strives to ensure corporate governance standards are maintained across the Group and is committed to acting honestly, with integrity and having regard to legislation applicable to its business.
On or about April 2011 JCDecaux Africa and the City entered into a binding long term master lease that regulates the erection and use of JCDecaux Africa's advertising structures falling within the jurisdiction of the City. This lease was further recognised in a recent article by the late David Gleason in his column in The Business Day and acknowledged that JCDecaux Africa had paid the City approximately ZAR109million for the rights granted to it in terms of the lease.
The erection and use, as well as the approvability and/or exemptions from approvals of JCDecaux Africa’s advertising structures, are governed by the terms and conditions of the lease agreement it has concluded with the City. Accordingly, JCDecaux Africa’s advertising structures which fall within the scope of the agreement are either exempt from or approved in terms of that agreement. In addition, since the signature of its lease with the City, JCDecaux Africa's has spent substantial sums of money in application fees with the City’s planning department, in the execution of the aforementioned contract.
JCDecaux Africa encourages the removal of unlawful advertising structures in accordance with laid down and well-established legal process, and certainly does not condone the festooning of the City with ad- hoc un-approved sign boards, banners, fly posting and the like and which in JCDecaux Africa's view, diminishes the value of legitimate approved and serviced outdoor advertising structures.
JCDecaux Africa also encourages protection of contractual rights and the expedient attention to signage planning applications to encourage participants in the industry to pursue the legal route in obtaining approval for the erection of advertising structures and of course, to assist in the rejuvenation of our ailing economy and protection of the public amenity.
We wish to stress that any allegations which attempt to affect our unblemished record of corporate governance or which purports to imply in any way that JCDecaux Africa does or is not complying with any laws applicable to it, are taken extremely seriously by JCDecaux Africa, and we will not hesitate to protect our rights accordingly where necessary.
New Outdoor advertising by-laws and Public Participation
Notwithstanding the statements regarding new by-laws being promulgated, we confirm that as at the date of this statement, the only outdoor advertising by-laws which are applicable and in force in the City are those promulgated on 18 December 2009, which has been unchanged since its proclamation.
In the circumstances, there are therefore no new outdoor advertising by-laws as claimed in the media.
Prior to the proclamation and passing of any by-law into law, a Municipality is under a statutory obligation to commence an open, transparent and thorough public participation process by inter alia calling for comment on the new proposed by-law from industry and the members of the public. We can confirm that the City has not yet formally commenced this process and JCDecaux Africa has not received an invitation for public participation from the City, neither has it received an invitation to comment on any draft by-laws. We confirm however that JCDecaux Africa intends to fully participate and be involved in any process that the City intends embarking on insofar as any new outdoor advertising by-laws are concerned.
Criminal Charges and actions against advertisers
The by-laws promulgated on 18 December 2009 do not contain any deeming provision which provides that an advertiser whose advertisement is flighted on a sign which has been erected, is in any way deemed to have erected such sign. Similarly, there is no such provision attributing any responsibility to an advertising agency either. Furthermore, it is clear from the definition of an “advertising sign” in the by-laws that it is not the advertisement face per se which requires approval in terms of the by-laws, but rather the structure itself which is erected to house such advertisement.
It follows therefore that claims by ill-informed sources to institute any form of legal action against advertisers (or their advertising agencies) is without any legal basis.
Problem Properties by-laws- no association to Outdoor Advertising by-laws
Following the statements in the media, JCDecaux Africa proceeded to investigate whether there is, in fact, new outdoor advertising by-laws or proposed new advertising by-laws. We have since established there is a set of by-laws promulgated in June 2014 that provide for Problem Properties. The pre-amble of these by-laws stipulates that its purpose is to provide for the identification, control, and management of dilapidated, abandoned and problem properties in the City, and to provide for matters incidental thereto.
These by-laws create a process whereby properties can be classified as problem properties. However, we must stress that these by-laws were not created for outdoor advertising enforcement but for something else. The date when these by-laws will be operational has not been announced yet. In other words, it is not the law as yet. As far as we are aware, there is no association or connection between these by-laws and the outdoor advertising by-laws.
27 March 2015