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Bylaw targets “illegal postering”

April 12th, 2012 · 8 Comments

CITY WIDE POSTERING BYLAW SLAMS LOCAL BANDS AND VENUES

With bylaws now being highly enforced, postering is now subject to stiff fines for businesses, promoters, and bands. This photo was taken in 2010. Perry King/Gleaner News.

By Jelena Subotic

It looks like Mayor Rob Ford has picked another fight.

A city bylaw created by Municipal Licensing and Standards is cracking down on posters taped or glued on hydro poles, bus shelters, and parking meters. This has bands, venues, and even event organizers scared because the bylaw would slap a fine up to $500 per poster.

The bylaw has been on the books for years. It was originally created in 2006, but only adopted in 2010 [pdf] when Ford started city-wide attacks on the posters.

In 2007, the city signed a 20-year period agreement with Astral Media for street furniture, which includes 2,000 postering boards and 500 postering columns. The final design of the columns, scattered around the city in odd spots, give more space for posters than existing options. But, there are very few columns. Any poster found on anything but sanctioned kiosks would be considered illegal.

Venues, including Lee’s Palace (529 Bloor St. W.), Horseshoe Tavern, and Clinton’s (693 Bloor St. W.), are getting fined because they are easier to track down.

Bands are also being fined. In 2008, Toronto band Spiral Beach was fined $1,470 back in 2008 for putting up a handmade poster on one of EcoMedia’s bins, the same company that operates Toronto’s SilverBox recycling bin program.

Under the bylaw, the city can charge the venue, band, or event organizer for the illegal posters. Some do not think it’s fair for venues to be charged because they are easiest to track down. Some think the promoters should be held accountable. They are also wondering why nightclubs and major advertising companies are just shrugging off the billboard and sign by-laws, while slamming local bands and small venues with hefty fines.

“I don’t even try and put posters up on street poles because they either get taken down right away or the law gets involved,” local musician Sam Cash says.

Cash has heard stories from friends fined when bands play their venue and have the name of the bar on posters. It is more effective to put up posters inside shops, record stores, and bars, says Cash.

“Kensington is a really good place to poster inside stores. Everyone seems really cool about supporting local music there,” Cash adds.

Matthew Almeida, an independent promoter, says that the bylaw has ruined one of his best methods for advertising. The advantage of social media helps with promotion, but “it limits my ability to draw in new people who might be interested in the sort of events I am hosting,” he says.

Smaller local bands turn to postering to promote shows and their businesses downtown. Advertising campaigns are costly, so bands like Spiral Beach make their own homemade posters and glue to keep things cheap.

“For the small independents, who were photocopying black and white drawings, it seems unfair,” says Almeida, comparing smaller scale to corporate based promoters, who can put up larger posters in higher amounts.

Cash thinks social media has an advantage, and wonders if posters are essential for promoting shows anymore. “Back in the 90’s, at the beginning of the whole [Do-It-Yourself]/indie scene in Toronto, street posters were essential in promoting a great show. Now, I’m not so sure,” he says.

In January, former Councillor Howard Moscoe told the Globe and Mail that Toronto’s “sign bylaw is a complete and total disaster.” This is because the law is poorly advertised and is very broad, he says.

The bylaw also stokes up the issue of free speech for Almeida. The Supreme Court has protected postering rights, but because the poster is an advertisement, it is unprotected as creative expression. Others would argue that postering is freedom of expression.

“Individuals have long used postering as an effective and inexpensive means of communicative expression,” said Justice John Laskin to the Toronto Star in January.

“It’s already a difficult task to turn a profit,” Almeida says, who says his friends are losing income because of the by-law.

The city is trying to save money and make profit, yet it’s a “waste of money the city has decided to use … that plastic coating on lamp posts in the Annex,” says Almeida.

“Now the city has taken away our cheapest and most effective ways of marketing.”

Tags: Annex · Liberty · News · General

8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Mark // Apr 12, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    The link to the MLS bylaw is broken. I’m curious about this since this was once (if not still) a Charter issue. I’ve always understood that it’s legal to poster on any public property but illegal on private property. With the recent sale of the hydro poles from the city (public property) to Toronto Hydro (private property), it would make sense that it’s now illegal. Oddly, it’s illegal to put a poster on the red Canada Post mailboxes (private) but legal on the grey ones (public)!

  • 2 Christopher // Apr 13, 2012 at 10:43 am

    If the City wants to go after postering, etc.. they should really be targeting the venues and events that are being pushed into people’s hands as they exit the bars and nightclubs.
    Most of these flyers are just tossed onto the sidewalk, and are a horrible eyesore the following day.

  • 3 D. Gabriel // Apr 20, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    To Whom it may concern: The mess that is created by postering is making the city junky and ugly. There is no honour amonst posters as they cover each other up. These are freeby seeking parasites who don’t want to pay and who don’t care about taking them down when the whatever is over! Local newspapers are cheap to advertise, and hand delivering, etc. would be another way to get free advertising. We don’t need posters on every pole, etc. on bright paper, etc. garbaging up the streets! It’s time to take the bylaw seriously and create income for the City. D.Gabriel

  • 4 charles clint // May 11, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    This illegal posting is clearly out of hand ,no place is speared,bus shelters once ,considered off limits,is now the place of choice especially for driving schools. There is component to this which is very concerning,the fact that this mostly being done by new Canadians from South Asia. They replace these poster as fast as they are taken down…where is the respect ,for long time residents? Also this phenomenon is new to the suburbs.They cover the line of sight for ttc riders to see the oncomming bus , they post on school zone warning signs.
    I wish the Mayor would attack this problem with the same dedication as he does with the graffiti “artists” I could go on with many more reasons why left unchecked could even pose a danger to the public ,but is anyone listening? these signs are just as unsightly as any graffiti…To ad insult ,they even push past waiting TTC passangers to post their garbage. And don’t tell me about free speech ,this is about free advertising,at the majority of citizens expence…How this has gotten so out of hand I will never understand…

  • 5 clint // May 12, 2012 at 11:34 am

    Mr Mascoe , is quoted in the bylaw airticle as having said; “The by law is poorly advertised” The bylaw is (was) never advertised . I have been asking city hall to put up signs with photos of postered over bus shelters, with the internationally recognised circle with a line through it in different languages,much like they do when introducing new services to residents,or when they are seeking votes. They won’t have any part of this. I sometimes wonder ,why the Mayor refuses to make any public pronouncement on this problem,because he does’nt want to draw negative attention to the business, he made is fortune in .
    His firm maybe even responsible for printing some of these labels posted all over the traffic lights

  • 6 A.AVIS // May 14, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    I can understand a garage sale poster on the street for a couple of days, but it seems that some businesses have deemed it appropriate to have their signs permanently attached to hydro poles in residential neighbourhoods! In my neighbourhood, I have taken it upon myself to personally take down those signs at first sight…I pay alot of property taxes to keep my streets clean and beautiful..my advice is spare that occasional garage sale poster, but tear down that permanent business sign as soon as you see it. I have taken down 6 signs for the same company within a 2 km radius!

  • 7 clint // May 15, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    A AVIS,GOOD FOR YOU I DO THE SAME THING ,BUT AS PRIVATE CITIZENS WE CAN DO SO MUCH. WE NEED TO LOBBY OUR CITY COUNCILLORS ,TO TAKE THIS GROWING PROBLEM SERIOUSLY AND PUT A STOP TO THIS GROWING PROBLEM BEFORE WE ARE CONSUMED BY THIS NONSENSE. IT OCCURS TO ME THAT HOWARD MASCOE IS ALSO IN THE SIGN PRINTING BUSINESS TOO,THIS MIGHT EXPLAIN THE RELUCTANCE TO COME DOWN HARD ON THESE PARASITES…AND ASTRAL IS CONTENT TO CLEAN THEM OFF UNTIL IT GETS TOO MESSY THEY REPLACE THESE BUS SHELTERS. WHO GETS A FREE PASS TO SYSTEMATICLLY DESTROY PUBLIC PROPERTY?

  • 8 Lucile // Jun 30, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    Some postering is still legal. Starting on page 35 of this pdf of legal documents of by-laws.
    http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/municode/1184_693.pdf