Ad madness: 86 new screens for Bristol?

Advertising company Clear Channel has applied to install 86 new advertising screens at bus stops across Bristol, removing all paper adverts in favour of digital screens. See below for how to object.

86 new digital ad screens would change the face of the city, altering the look and feel of where we live, with more light pollution, more aggressive corporate presence and more distractions for drivers. But there’s been no public consultation on this development.

Powering one digital ad screen of this size uses the same amount of electricity per year as 4 average UK homes, meaning 86 new screens would require the electricity budget of close to 350 homes. Last year, we collected 100 powerful testimonials that show how digital billboards harm the wellbeing of people living nearby. Meanwhile, research shows that digital screens, which show changing images, are more distracting for road users

Clear Channel says they’ll bring social and environmental benefits to Bristol. But despite their greenwash, this isn’t about communities – it’s about profit making, since advertisers make more money from digital screens. The council also receives revenue from ad screens; but while untangling private interests from public infrastructure is complex, it’s clear that advertisers are exploiting the legacy of austerity to advance their own profit-making agenda – at a cost to local people and the environment.

Our full response and a step by step guide to making an objection can be found below.

Location details for the bus stop screens can be seen on this map (work in progress)

Ad-free alternative!

How to object:

> Go to https://www.bristol.gov.uk/planning-and-building-regulations/look-at-and-track-planning-applications

> Click: Search for planning applications

> Type 22/02276/A (Horfield), and 22/02275/A (Lockleaze). We’re focusing objections on these two proposed screens, but check the map above to find one near you.

> Click ‘Make A Comment’ **If the council website is down, email your objection to development.management@bristol.gov.uk citing the reference number and making sure to include your name and address.**

> Type your objection. *Make sure to state that you are objecting to ALL OF THE 86 SCREENS owing to their cumulative impact, as well as the individual one you’re objecting to.*

The Council can reject the application on the basis of harm to ‘Road Safety’ and ‘Amenity’ (meaning, will the screen affect your ability to enjoy the place you live, and the character of the area?). It’s good to include these factors in your objection.

Also explain what this development would mean to you and how it would affect your life. For example, do you use the bus network, cycle or drive past bus stops, or live near to one?

Adblock’s full response is pasted below for reference. Please share this with friends and colleagues, and get in touch if you’d like more info: adblockbristol@gmail.com

**NEW APPLICATIONS FOR SOUTH & CENTRAL BRISTOL:**

Adblock Bristol’s response

Our full objection is pasted here for reference; but make sure your objection is personal to you. It doesn’t need to be long! 

Advertising company Clear Channel has applied to install 86 new digital advertising screens in Bristol. In response, we are asking you to refuse permission for the screens given the detrimental material change this development would cause to the look, feel and safety of the city for all those that live and work here, as well as wildlife, both locally and cumulatively at the city level. 

The proposed development poses a threat to road safety with additional distractions placed across the city. Digital ad screens are particularly distracting for road users, and most distracting for younger drivers.[1]

Each digital advertising screen of this size uses a colossal amount of electricity to power; as much as four households per year on average.[2] As we face the interacting challenges of an energy crisis, the rising cost of living, and climate change, Clear Channel’s application to install 86 energy-hungry and intrusive digital advertising screens is completely out of touch with Bristol’s social and environmental goals. 

Clear Channel’s application to double the number of bus stop ad screens in Bristol is also out of touch with local communities. Just last month, more than 400 Bristol residents took the time to lodge an objection to a new digital screen near Gloucester Road,[3] while more than 2300 people have signed a petition to remove two existing screens overlooking the M32.[4] Bristol doesn’t want more bright, intrusive, energy-hungry digital screens.

In their 86 applications, the advertising company acknowledges the social, economic and environmental harms caused by digital ad screens by including an extensive ‘social value’ programme. Among other greenwashing statements, the advertiser claims that the screens will be powered by 100% renewable energy. 

However, these ad screens will be using electricity drawn from the National Grid, which is currently a mix with less than 50% from renewable sources on average. Just as this statement is clearly greenwash, so are Clear Channel’s other offerings. The advertiser’s ‘social value’ provision cannot offset the harms new screens will cause for years into the future.

Bristol prides itself on being green and progressively minded, a place with uniquely vibrant local culture, heritage, music, art and community. 86 new digital advertising screens would change the face of the city, altering the look and feel of where we live, with more light pollution, more aggressive corporate presence and more distractions for drivers – and ultimately, more profit for the advertisers.

Once digital screens are here, they are largely here to stay. However, Bristol people have been given almost no time to lodge their views on this drastic change to the cityscape. Each application has approximately one month for public comment, with no wider consultation allowing a democratic decision to be made despite the large cumulative material change posed. This proposed development will affect each of us living and working in Bristol on a daily basis. It will not affect the lives of the advertisers who decide to force their unwanted structures on our city, other than lining their pockets. 

Testimonials from over 100 people living near to two digital screens in Bristol reveal that the screens have a serious impact on mental health. They distract drivers, and cause a feeling of neglect for the area where they are placed.[5] We have clear evidence of the multiple negative effects of digital advertising screens on Bristol people’s quality of life. In light of this and the factors outlined above, we urge you to refuse permission for each and all of these screens.

References: 

[1] Oviedo-Trespalacios et al. (2019), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tra.2019.01.012

[2] The electricity cost of digital adverts (Adblock Bristol, 2018). https://adfreecities.org.uk/2019/11/the-electricity-cost-of-digital-adverts/

[3]  Planning ref: 22/01084/A

[4] Screened Out: Time’s up for the M32 billboards (Adblock Bristol petition, 2021-present). 
https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/screened-out-times-up-for-the-m32-billboards

[5] Living next to digital billboards (Adblock Bristol, 2021). https://adfreecities.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/living-next-to-digital-billboards-M32.pdf

Each bus stop ad screen uses the same electricity as 4 average UK homes per year

Published by