AMA, AAG on collision course

    Billboards are,  perhaps, the most popular form of outdoor advertising in the country. But their indiscriminate mounting which has become a blot on some parts of the  country's  landscape.
Currently, question as to who qualifies to  regulate the industry has become a tussle between the Advertising Association of Ghana (AAG), and the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA).
       The AMA in a statement dated June 16, 2010, and  signed by its Head of Public Affairs , Mr James Dorgbetor, warned that it would embark on a massive removal of authorised  billboards after a 30-day grace period which is from June 22 to July 22 , if  the advertising agencies fail to identify the boards with their company names.
       According to the statement,  the proliferation of unidentified and authorised bill boards and sign boards within the metropolis,  in most cases,  compromised the safety and health standards of the public.
        However, the AAG sees the directive as an indirect attempt by the AMA to force the advertising industry to pay an increased advertising rate some of which are more than 600 per cent.
       Speaking to the Daily Graphic, the Executive Director of the AAG, Mr Francis Dadzie, noted with concern that even though the AAG was a major industry player, the AMA failed to consult it when it was increasing the rates.
      He said the AAG would comply with the AMA directive but warned that it would not tolerate a situation where the AMA was trying to use the directive as a strategy to get the industry players to pay the new rates.
      "We are not against the AMA regulating the industry or increasing its revenue collection, but since we are major stakeholders we must be consulted on matters concerning the industry.”
      He wondered why the AMA had engaged Via Affinity, a company he alleged to have a fictitious background to regulate the industry at a time the Ghana Standards Board (GSB) had gazette standards for the industry.
       He questioned the competency of Via Affinity to regulate an industry it had little knowledge about and wondered why the AMA was handing its core functions regarding the advertising industry to a company which had not been registered in the country at the time it was awarded the contract.
      Mr Dadzie stated that the AAG'S  bone of contention with the agreement was that  Via Affinity 's role in the contract which was to process applications for permits, monitor and inspect compliance of structure against approval, enforcing compliance and the billing and collecting of revenue was not only the usurpation of  the role of the Technical Committee on Advertising but also an attempt to undermine the advertising industry which contributes more than GHC 1,000,000 to the country's economy annually.
        "By giving such powers to a private company, the AMA is empowering a group of individuals to favour their cronies through the granting of permits and sidelining legitimate businesses.
          He said the  AAG was battling the AMA in court over a contract with Via Affinity to ensure that the regulation of the industry was not left in the hands of a few people to manipulate for their personal interest.
       "Via Affinity is bringing nothing new to the table, we cannot  afford to pay their rates and still be in business. Our members will therefore, pay the old rates." Mr Dadzie added.
      The Outdoor Advetising Standards which was gazette on March 6, 2010, and known as " Services-Advertising-Specification for Outdoor Signs,"  sets out guidance for the control of outdoor advertisements nation-wide.
        It was developed by a  Technical Committee including the Department of Urban Roads, Ghana Highway Authority, the AAG, the AMA, the Ghana Standards Board, Consumers Association of Ghana and Yeltron Services.
       It is designed to encourage the provision of well-designed and adequately supported advertisement with regards  to the structure and location of billboards.
        Furthermore, the standard  is expected to ensure that care is taken in the display of outdoor advertisements in order not to endanger public safety or public amenities having individual permits in mind.
       A Supply of Services Agreement signed between the AMA and Via Affinity dated December 14, 2010 states that total revenue collected annually would be shared 50-50 per cent in the first year and then 60 and 40 per cent in favour of the AMA in the subsequent years.

       When contacted on the matter, the Head of Public Affairs of the AMA , Mr James Dorgbetor, denied that the AMA was using its directive on the identification of billboards to enforce the payment of the new rates.

       He said the directive was to bring sanity into the mounting of billboards in the city and to position the city towards achieving its Millennium City agenda.
      According to him, Via Affinity did not decide the assembly's rate-fixing in anyway because the  resolution on the new rates were passed by the General Assembly of the AMA and not the recommendations of the Via Affinity.
      Meanwhile, a letter dated April 6, 2010, signed by the Chief Director of the Regional Co-ordinating Council (RCC), Mr F.T Nartey,  has directed the AMA to suspend the agreement pending consultations with the Attorney General and the Minister of Justice.
      According to the statement, the RCC had observed that "several clauses in the agreement appear to be inimical to the interest of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly and for that matter, the Government."


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