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Marking your outdoor territory – by Al Tamimi’s Fiona Robertson

Fiona Robertson, head of media and senior counsel at Al Tamimi & Company, analyses the implications of Dubai’s new regulations for outdoor advertising

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, passed a new law relating to the manner in which outdoor and public space advertising is approved and displayed in the emirate. Decree No. 06 of 2020 regarding the regulation of advertisements in the Emirate of Dubai was passed into law on February 20, 2020. Decree 6 of 2020 is limited in scope to the various forms of outdoor and physical advertising that can be placed within the emirate.

The law repealed an earlier local order from the Dubai Municipality (Local Order No 6 of 1986) that applied to the same activity. The differences between the local order and Decree 6 of 2020 are minimal, but may prove to be important.

KEY CHANGES

  • The addition of a manual
    Importantly, there is reference to the creation of a ‘manual’ by the Dubai Municipality. We have contacted the Municipality and the drafting of this is proceeding. Decree 6 of 2020 notes that this will include the more practical matters associated with the decree’s operation, and will likely include the processes, forms, fees and general specifications for outdoor advertising in the emirate.
  • The definition of ‘advertising’
    This has been slightly altered and new definitions have been included. One relates to the medium used for outdoor advertising – to include “signs, fences, poles, balloons, planes, vehicles, maritime vessels, posters, maps, leaflets and any other means”. While not strictly necessary, given the above clear definition, it does go on to add that this “shall not include newspapers, magazines,  periodicals, websites, broadcast and TV in addition to displays in cinemas”.The other relates to the locations for such advertising. This is said to include “without limitation malls, facades, roofs, space areas, road reserves, squares, gardens, public beaches, vehicles, maritime vessels and any other location where advertising can be made using advertising means”.
  • Arabic language
    The previous requirement that Arabic language be used is retained. However, there is a new condition that the Arabic must be “accurate and sound”.
  • Relevant authorities
    Decree 6 of 2020 has included a list of all relevant authorities that are now involved in the approval process, which are dependent on the location that has been selected for the advertising. For example, the relevant free zone authority must be consulted if the location is within their boundaries. Interestingly, the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority is included, for advertising on or by “planes, including drones, balloons, or by using laser devices in air”, adding a potential new category for advertisers.
  • Restricted locations
    There is a new restriction on the placement of advertising on “residential building facades” and “balconies of buildings”. In addition, the previous prohibition on “parks and trees” has been limited to just “trees”, implying that parks could now be available as a location for outdoor advertising. Note that, for all 10 listed prohibited locations, there is a notation that the manual may add requirements that include allowing such advertising to proceed under, perhaps, some limited circumstances.
  • Shop fronts
    An unexpected addition is the requirement that “every person exercising any economic activity in the emirate shall put an advertisement on the facade of the store where he practises the business to refer to his business and commercial name according to the conditions and requirements approved in the manual”. The manual will, of course, clarify the nature and extent to which  businesses must comply with this provision, and it may be as simple as placing a copy of the current trade licence near the front door.
  • New requirement regarding content
    Interestingly, Decree 6 of 2020 adds that the content of any advertising must “be accurate, objective and credible”. We expect the manual will make clearer how this will be analysed and put into practice.

Naturally, the new decree includes clarifications as to penalties for noncompliance (up to AED 15,000, multiplied for repetition of offences).

It is important to remember that this does not alter the federal content regulations, as contained in the various laws and resolutions that are administered by the National Media Council. Whilst the new law will tell you how to place your advertising in the emirate, the content of the ad is still subject to those laws.

The above provisions will apply from 20 August 2020. We expect that the manual will be released by Dubai Municipality well before this date.

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