Shanghai puts kibosh on new billboards

Wants to clean up before 2010 World Expo

SHANGHAI -- Citing too many billboards that are too densely placed, Shanghai has suspended all new outdoor advertising ahead of the 2010 World Expo, echoing earlier restrictions enacted in Beijing for the lead-up to the Olympics.

In a note posted on the city's Web site Thursday, city spokesman Chen Qiwei called the billboards across China's commercial capital "too indiscriminate."

Shanghai stopped approval of ads April 22, the note said. Chen said that the decision, which came without warning, is temporary, while the city studies and formulates new management measures.

The development echoes regulations in Beijing in April 2007, made in anticipation of this August's Olympics. Authorities there removed about 20,000 outdoor ads in what Liu Bin, an analyst with media consultancy BDA, called "a case showing Chinese government's mandatory power in the media sector."

"The previously rampant outdoor ads will likely under stricter control in some local markets in the future," Liu wrote in an email in December.

But Shanghai ad execs said they were surprised.

"We usually receive notice from the association two to three months prior to any new policy change," Kelvin Fan of Shanghai Bestknown Ad Co. told the state run China Daily. Work on outdoor ads already approved must cease immediately, the newspaper said.

Qiu Dongming, director of the outdoor advertisement committee of the Shanghai Advertisement Assn., said authorities might be concerned with the side effects of the outdoor ads.

"This does not mean the ban is legally justifiable. It has hindered us from scheduling our projects," Qiu told the daily.

City officials did not responded to interview requests.

Caroline Middlecote in Shanghai and Jonathan Landreth in New York contributed to this report.