Thursday, May 27, 2004

Flyposting for Freedom

I was reading Venue before xmas where they had a big article about local Tory politician, Richard Eddy and his war on flyposting. As part of the spin for this campaign, he posed for a photo surrounded by the objects of his displeasure - posters of evil! But is this issue as simple as one of litter and glue? Is there more to it than that? Well I think so....

We live in a democracy (apparently) and one of the privileges we are kindly granted (lol) is the freedom to speak out; to say what we like. Unlike those living in the axis of evil, we can choose write songs about Blair being a lying wanker, rather than be forced to endlessly drone the praises of Kim Il Jong. However, like many of the so-called freedoms we have, it doesn't mean as much in practice it does in theory - how do you use your freedom of speech when there is nowhere free to say anything? Having no platform to speak out from is as effective a form of censorship as a gun to the head. Indeed, you could argue it more effective because it renders a mass of the population unaware they are being censored, at least with the gun you know where you stand.

Where does flyposting fit into this?

Say you wanted to take advantage of the democratic rights you've been offered and stand for election. You need to let voters know that you exist and what you stand for. Assuming you are just an ordinary person like me - what budget promotional options have you got available? You can hope that the local media take an interest, but say your party was the 'End the Evening Post Media Monopoly Party' do you think they would? Your options are pretty much down to leafleting and flyposting and you are now in Richard Eddie's crosshairs. This situation is the same with music - you're trying to build a scene or band that's outside the mainstream or controversial (say Thrash-Folk or Speed-Country) - you have only a few options for publicity. And the most effective and cheapest is gonna get you busted.

Money, Money, Money

All these difficulties of exercising free speech or promoting your unique sound vanish if you are rich. You can buy a flyposting licence, pay for adverts in the papers and so on. So what we're looking at is a system where the freedom of your speech is related to how much cash you've got - and that's where this comes full circle - in the picture of Richard Eddie I mentioned at the start, all the posters he is posing with are local club ones. Eh? Where's the corporate flyposters? I don't know about you, but that's what I see most of when I'm walking around; 'Men Only' soft-porn adverts and international crappy pop tunes. They've got the cash to pay somebody to put us huge A1 glossy posters everywhere and Eddie is helping remove their competition. He is ensuring that is that poorer local bands and groups be at a huge disadvantage while the multinational are let loose to smear their insipid shit all over another media form. Here's a couple of examples of the companies who Eddie has not highlighted in his Venue photo-op; Pink - has lots of posters for a new single on the Laface label (who are owned by Arista, who are owned by BMG, who are owned by Bertelsmann, who are one of the largest media corporations in the world) and there are still a few Kill Bill posters flapping in the wind (a film by Miramax, owned by Disney, another mega-corporation who donated $1.25 million to the Bush campaign.)

The Devil's Wallpaper Paste

I know that flyposting produces litter and mess, and the glue can be toxic and damages buildings - I'm not saying we ignore this - but by licensing it; all that is happening is that big business gets near exclusive access to another promotional method and the local scene is, again, shut out. Which I suppose does fit the overall Tory world-view, but it is not Pink or Disney that makes Bristol a vibrant music and cultural scene, its the many underground scenes with their energy, creativity and enthusiasm and a bucket of wallpaper paste.

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