Billboards that clutter up the skyline will give way to unipoles. The Trinamul Congress-controlled civic board is preparing a new policy that restricts the number of billboards on conventional structures and encourages the erection of the unipole.
“The indiscriminate installation of billboards makes the skyline look ugly,” mayor Subrata Mukherjee said on Sunday. He said unipoles appear less cluttered, while allowing for ads on either side. So, the revenue from each unipole is double that of the conventional billboard.
About 10,000 billboards have been erected by outdoor advertising agencies in Calcutta, against only two unipoles, one beside the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass and the other at Salt Lake stadium.
Civic project and development department officers said they had already prepared a model on the structural design of the unipole by modifying the US code on its design, under the guidance of municipal commissioner Debasis Som.
“We have to modify the US code on structural specifications of the unipole, since quality control on iron and steel products here is not as rigid as it is in the US,” said Mukherjee. “We re-codified it in line with ISI specifications,” said Som, who has already prepared a software on it.
A leading outdoor advertising agency has already approached the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) with a proposal for erecting 20 unipoles at different spots, including Park Street and the EM Bypass. The company also proposed to cut down on the existing number of its billboards by 50 per cent if it was allowed to convert 50 per cent of these into unipoles.
The CMC now earns Rs 3 crore annually from billboards. The mayor feels the earnings are that low owing to a caucus active in the advertisement department, which encourages mushrooming of illegal billboards in exchange for money. Since a unipole costs about Rs 40 lakh, the possibility of the spawning of illegal unipoles will be less.
Mukherjee said outdoor advertising is more than a Rs 1,000-crore annual business in the city, of which the CMC's share is a paltry Rs 3 crore. “The minimum monthly rent for billboard space is not less than Rs 10,000 and in the case of the unipole, the minimum monthly rent for ad space will be Rs 50,000,” he said.