Unapproved advertising a sticky issue for HCMC

By Gia Minh, Dinh Van   September 23, 2023 | 03:05 pm PT
Unapproved advertising a sticky issue for HCMC
Numerous unapproved advertisement posters are seen on electric poles on Xo Viet Nghe Tinh Street, HCMC's Binh Thanh District, September 23, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Anh
Vandalism-like advertisements are a common menace in HCMC, and a lack of solutions and personnel has let the problem fester for years.

In front of Tu Du Hospital on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street, District 1, makeshift advertising posters, stickers and graffiti-like scribbles can be seen all over the walls and electric poles, with contents ranging from loans to drainage services.

As the location is often populated with people and their families awaiting medical treatment, it is a prime spot for these types of advertisements to sprout up.

A security guard at the hospital said the hospital and local authorities frequently remove the unapproved decals, but they always return the next day.

"They ride motorbikes, bringing with them stacks of advertisement posters and pasting them onto things before leaving immediately, making prevention difficult," the guard said.

Unapproved advertisements have been a plague on many HCMC structures for many years. From the smallest alleys to major roads, people can always see such posters and scribbles on walls, electric poles, lampposts, et al.

Even the trees have posters nailed onto them, offering people services like loans, Internet access, or even land sales.

Nguyen Ngoc Duc, chairman of the Ward 4 People's Committee in District 3, said it is difficult to deal with the advertisements completely, despite numerous personnel being deployed to search for and fine cases of violations.

Every Saturday, local police and militia members patrol the streets and remove the unapproved posters, but their efforts are never enough.

The problem goes beyond downtown areas and HCMC’s other districts also encounter the same issues. A representative of the Binh Thanh District People's Committee said many such advertisements have been found lately, but dealing with such violations is difficult. Punishing violators also requires coordination between multiple forces, which incurs higher costs, they added.

Within the first six months of this year, Binh Thanh District has deployed personnel 48 times to remove tens of thousands of unapproved advertisement posters, banners and billboards. However, only four violators were found and fined a total of VND6 million ($246.18). A general fine of VND1-2 million is levied on individuals, and twice that for organizations, Many consider this too lenient.

Vo Trong Nam, vice director of the HCMC Department of Culture and Sports, said unapproved advertisements on public infrastructure is a problem for the city, but dealing with them is difficult as violators keep finding new ways to evade authorities. For example, people can put up posters at dawn to avoid patrolling personnel, while others paste the posters before escaping immediately on motorbikes.

Posters are also often made of resistant materials, and the glue used to paste them up is also sticky. "In some cases, to avoid their advertisements from being removed, some even attach metal hooks and blades onto them, making it dangerous for those who try to remove the advertisements," he added.

Nam said certain districts have used anti-stick paint to prevent people from pasting posters on objects, or even creating boards for advertisements to be pasted on, but these measures have proven to be ineffective. Furthermore, there are few personnel available to patrol on fixed schedules, he said.

One option in dealing with violators is to deal with the owners of the phone numbers pasted on the advertisements. However, even such a method has been deemed impractical.

Lawyer Nguyen Ngoc Quang of the HCMC Bar Association said there is currently no regulation that allows phone numbers on unapproved advertisements to be locked. Most of the owners of such phone numbers also likely use false SIM cards anyway. As such, to deal with violators, authorities must catch them red-handed instead.

Quang proposed that authorities should actively monitor the situation, instead of drawing up prevention methods. Authorities can also encourage locals to report violations, for example by sending authorities the motorbike plate numbers of bill stickers.

Nam said there should be stronger measures against organizations that offer services on unapproved advertisements. Besides fines, authorities can also make violators do public service as a method for deterrence, he added.

In May, HCMC police removed several unapproved advertisements on public infrastructures. Authorities have also made people who put up unapproved advertisements remove the advertisements themselves, and authorities have also encouraged photocopy shops not to print out such advertisements.

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