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Take the city back

International advertising agencies are taking over our cities.


[25. May 2007] There is a revolution going on. American Clear Channel and French JCDecaux have quietly entered into agreements with at least 31 Norwegian municipalities for large advertising spaces. The city councils in Oslo and Bergen have joined forces with French and American business interests in the fight against the will of the people. The plan is clear, and is formulated in Clear Channel's ten bids for good advertising: The cities must be characterized by sex, children and celebrities – in the greatest possible perspective, with light, movement and four colors.

In Bergen, all the city's city government politicians are called in as witnesses when the municipality now sits on the prosecution bench in the district court. They face a claim for compensation of NOK 5 million, because politicians have used their democratic right to vote against an agreement that would affect the Bergen cityscape for at least 15 years. The administration entered into an agreement between Clear Channel and the municipality, concerning 900 advertising-financed reading sheds and 225 large and dominant advertising posters. But on October 24, 2005, Bergen's elected officials clearly said no to the advertisement. The city council does not want Americans to decide what the city should look like.

In the same way, Oslo's city council politicians wanted to take back control of the capital, when the same autumn they instructed the city council to remove the advertisement on the descent tower to the subway. The towers were set up late at night without political approval. But the advertising towers still spoil the city, and the city council has no control. The advertising's French-American revolutionary heroes are constantly setting up new bus shelters, free-standing barricades, bicycle racks and towers – all characterized by large, luminous advertising posters.

The Oslo City Council has now presented a comprehensive plan for regulating advertising in the cityscape. The initiative is brilliant. Visual means can be visual noise, but a well-planned cityscape can withstand clear shouts in some places. Unfortunately, the specific proposal is discouraging. The free-standing advertising towers that only private companies profit from will fortunately be banned. The same goes for stand-alone advertising. But with one possible exception: The roughly two meter high, free-standing barricades that stand in the middle of the sidewalks in Oslo's pedestrian streets. At the same time, the city council will maintain the poster ban. This is how the big players can continue, while the local cultural life is not allowed to announce its events anywhere. And so the revolution continues – against the will of the people.

Now the people, by the elected officials, must take hold. Give the city back to its citizens.

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