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French MP calls for ban on digital advert screens

France could be one step closer to outlawing advertising screens in public spaces such as train stations, after an MP submitted a bill calling for their ban this week.

Delphine Batho, MP for Deux-Sèvres, former ecology minister, and president of ecological movement Génération Écologie, submitted the bill this week, citing “ecological and health demands”.

She argues that the screens contribute to excess energy consumption and are damaging to public health.

The bill comes three months after a group of French MPs also proposed a ban on screen advertising - this time in public bathrooms.

Should Ms Batho’s bill come into law, it would ban advertising screens from most public places, including airports, stations, and public transport.

Ms Batho has said that there are “already 704 digital screens” installed in the Paris metro network, and 686 in major train stations in the capital. She calculated that “a digital panel with a size of 2m2 consumes 7000 kWh per year, the same as a one-child household”.

The issue is not limited to Paris, with other cities such as Lyon, Toulouse, and Lille also highlighted.

In a statement, Ms Batho said: “The aim is to end this aberration that causes useless energy consumption in these times of climate change, but which are also linked to public health [issues].

“More and more studies are showing that children should not be exposed to screens, but here we are installing advertising panels all over public spaces [even though] we cannot control the ages of the people who are in front of these screens.

“We are heading towards an ugly and uniform world where we have advertising all around us.”

In a tweet, Ms Batho added: “Advertising screens in the streets, stations etc are an aberration. Useless energy consumption, over-exposure of our brains to screens, ugly towns...STOP! Let us free our imaginations from invasive advertising. [I am] submitting a legal bill to ban them all over France.”

The MP has also said that she would like local mayors to have the power to ban digital screens, especially in train stations. Currently, this authority rests with train operator SNCF.

Ms Batho’s bill, which is expected to be supported by a presidential majority, is set to be debated by the Assemblée Nationale next week.

A campaign against digital advertising screens in SNCF stations already exists, with the Stop Pub Vidéo group gathering signatures for its petition on the issue, and calling for SNCF to "withdraw all advertising screens from stations and for the ecology minister to ban these in public stations".

Ms Batho: “We are heading towards an ugly and uniform world where we have advertising all around us.” (Photo: Joshua Earle / Unsplash / Unsplash License)

Better than a car?

In response, advertising companies have defended their practices.

In a statement to public news source FranceInfo in March last year, director of market giant Decaux, Jean-François Decaux, said: “These screens are already better [for the environment] than sending someone in a car to change the [paper] poster.”

Bathroom bill

Ms Batho is not the first MP to hit out against digital advertising - dubbed “DOOH” (“digital out-of-home”).

In November, MPs including Clémentine Autain, Mathilde Panot, and Philippe Gosselin proposed a bill that would give people the right to “urinate in peace”, after one of them objected to advertising screens in the toilet of a Paris café.

The proposal text read: “In the bathroom of this Paris café, I was in the middle of going to the toilet, when, what surprise, what shock...20 centimetres from my eyes, just above the urinal, a screen makes itself known. Impossible to ignore this advertising.”

The proposal said it would fight against “the invasion of screens into daily life”, and “boot advertising out of the bathroom”.

That proposal is now undergoing evaluation by the commission for social affairs.

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