First it was sex services cards in telephone booths, now it’s ads on them. Clearly New Labour is getting its priorities right in the second term.
Who: The Departme Who: The Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions
When: July 2001
The Government published a Consultation Paper on the subject of Telephone Kiosk Glass Advertising. To date, some 20,000 of BT’s 95,000 street telephone kiosks carry advertising on the kiosk glass. Over the next year to 18 months BT anticipates that a further 20,000 kiosks will receive the same treatment, while there are also significant numbers of non BT kiosks being used in the same way. Among the factors driving the consultation paper were concerns as to whether planning consent should be needed for this usage and worries for the safety of kiosk users now obscured from CCTV cameras and general view. The Paper also cites an environmental concern that previously transparent objects should become instantly more solid structures, drivers being distracted if the kiosk is near the roadside and reduced ability to detect criminal activity inside the kiosk such as drug taking.
The Paper comes up with three alternative fixes. First, deemed planning consent provided a self regulatory Code of Practice is followed, covering aspects such as the location of the advertising and safety considerations. Second, deemed consent coupled with local legal limitations and conditions driven by the needs of the area in question. Thirdly, a need for express planning consent for each individual kiosk, on a one-off basis, approval being granted for five years initially. Responses and preferences are requested by 28 September 2001.
Why this matters:
BT Payphones’ licence obliges it to install a minimum number of call boxes, but the mobile phone must have made it a commercial necessity for BT to extract extra kiosk revenue. Clearly BT will prefer option one, but the high number of non BT kiosks may make this option unattractive to government. What with this and the plans to introduce legislation criminalising phone box sex cards, we may well be looking at a new growth area for government and John Prescott’s next ministerial berth, though “Minister for Phone Booths” may not have quite the right “ring” to it!