In recent years there has been a rise in the number of outdoor advertisements in Russian, English and other languages in the Czech Republic, to the annoyance of many locals. Now a new bill has been put forward regulating such ads. If passed, the legislation will allow local authorities to ban any foreign-language adverts displayed in public that are not accompanied by the same text in Czech.
The draft legislation was this week put forward by a group of Social Democrat, ANO and TOP 09 deputies. They say the bill addresses concerns by inhabitants of a number of Czech towns and cities who complain about increasing number of ads in Russian, English and even Vietnamese. František Vácha from TOP 09 is one of the deputies behind the bill.
“The main reason is that there is no regulation of foreign-language advertising in Czech cities and towns. There have been complaints by Czech citizens that you are walking in the street which is full of signs in foreign languages. So this was the impulse to come up with such legislation.”
Complaints about ads in foreign languages, mainly Russian, have been coming particularly from spa towns in Bohemia such as Karlovy Vary and Mariánské Lázně. They have become very popular with Russian expats and tourists, and local businesses – some themselves Russian-owned – have responded to the demand. Local town halls have in the past tried to tackle the issue through their own regulations but found there was no legal basis for such action.
The authors of the bill say similar legislation is in place in a number of EU countries. The MPs argue it is not directed against foreigners; on the contrary, it should ban what many see as discrimination against locals. Mr Vácha again.
“This is nothing against foreigners. I think the Czech Republic should be proud and help foreign nationals who have decided to come here, run their businesses here, and pay taxes. On the other hand, you have to understand the local people who have seen their towns and cities change over the past number of years”
The legislation would mostly apply to ads put up by travel agents as well as signs outside shops, restaurants and hotels aimed at foreign visitors.
None of the Prague-based tour operators approached by Radio Prague would comment on the issue although some of them said off record they hoped the bill would be scrapped. For their part, the Czech Association of Hotels of Restaurants questions the benefits of the initiative. Václav Stárek is the head of the association.
“I would say it’s more of a political issue than a practical one. In many places in the Czech Republic, tourists have problems understanding the signs which are in Czech rather than English. But we don’t see any problems with such a bill as long as it will allow advertising in foreign languages along with Czech.”
The initiative could also be motivated by October’s local elections, as some lawmakers might feel this could be a vote winner. Meanwhile, the bill has a good chance of passing if it wins backing from all deputies from the Social Democrat, ANO and TOP 09 parties.