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Oct 30, 2009

The Age in CBD graffiti tag shame

Melbourne broadsheet The Age is facing prosecution after it illegally sprayed promotional stencils onto Melbourne's streets, in defiance of Melbourne City Council guidelines.

Fairfax broadsheet The Age is facing prosecution after it illegally painted promotional stencils on to Melbourne’s streets, in defiance of Melbourne City Council guidelines.

The so-called “stencil art”, which is classified as graffiti, appeared on footpaths in the Melbourne CBD this week in locations surrounding the paper’s new $110 million “Media Hub” in Collins Street.

Under the local law, no stencil, chalk or sticker pastings are permitted on footpaths for any reason.

Various Age website URLs, complete with an unexplained helicopter motif, appeared on Flinders Lane, Flinders Street and Spencer Street footpaths, in conjunction with Tuesday’s launch of the paper’s gleaming new headquarters, opposite Southern Cross Station.

A spokesperson for Melbourne City Council told Crikey it would investigate the stencils, with The Age or its PR company liable for a $500 fine. It is believed The Age had not contacted the council before it went ahead with the blitz, or paid the council to use its property for advertisements.

The council has been involved in a running battle with footpath stencil artists with the graffiti removed by council cleaners as soon as it is discovered. The Age‘s promotions were still clearly visible this morning, despite heavy overnight rain.

Street-chalking remains a controversial practice and is banned by many local councils. In June, The Age ‘s sister publication, the Sydney Morning Herald, ran a story on Sydney City Council’s campaign against Warner Music, after the company daubed Sydney streets with promotions for US band Green Day’s most recent album.

Despite their shadowy legal status, it is believed the stencils are offered by several Melbourne PR and marketing agencies. However, in recent years, their street-cred has been severely eroded after corporate behemoths including Microsoft, Absolut Vodka and ubiquitous global bag brand Crumpler co-opted the practice. It is unknown whether The Age contracted out its Media House campaign, or whether it pursued it in-house.

Tuesday’s underwhelming launch of the glistening Media House edifice, set to host The Age and The Australian Financial Review‘s newsrooms, was attended by outgoing Fairfax chairman Ron Walker, Fairfax CEO Brian McCarthy and Victorian Premier John Brumby. The paper has undertaken several PR stunts around the new building including the erection of a plastic URL promoting The Age ‘s climate sub-site, in the same style as the street art, inside Southern Cross Station.

The controversy comes on the same day the paper reported the news that US graffiti artist Jason Williams had received a ninth-month suspended jail term and a $15,340 fine for splashing paint on several Melbourne landmarks and train carriages.

Crikey contacted Age editor-in-chief Paul Ramadge, senior deputy-editor Mark Baker, sales and marketing director David Hoath and communications director Miranda Ramsay for comment, but we didn’t hear back before deadline.

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11 thoughts on “The Age in CBD graffiti tag shame

  1. meski

    I wouldn’t mind genuine art graffiti, but this is mere advertising.

  2. Jenny Morris

    $500 (the quantum of the fine, according to your article) is pretty cheap for PR, especially if you add all the free publicity from reporting the issue.

  3. kebab shop pizza

    It speaks volumes that Fairfax still feels the need to use the aitch-tee-tee-pee-colon-forward slash-forward slash prefix.

  4. Tom McLoughlin

    Street chalking controversial? You must be joking. Arthur Stace dude, and all that. I have fond memories of doing a yellow lame duck G W Bush in front of News Corp during APEC all in chalk. Barely last a week let alone one rain shower.

    There is something a little pathetic about big media dinosaurs trying to mix it with the mosquito media but hey these are strange days in printing press Mk II.

  5. Heathdon McGregor

    I thought the selling point for the new Victorian MYKI system was that the machine automatically picked up the card as you passed between two posts. Now it appears that travellers need to scan the cards. As there is only two posts at most rail stations and long delays will ensue, then what was the point of MYKI at all?

  6. meski

    @kebab: I’m a little surprised it isn’t https (IOW, that they want you to log in with a paid-for account)

  7. Pete WN

    @kebab: good point, and well spotted.

  8. vovo

    “It speaks volumes that Fairfax still feels the need to use the aitch-tee-tee-pee-colon-forward slash-forward slash prefix.”

    It speaks even more volumes that you can’t just fucking type “http://”.

  9. Bullmore's Ghost

    I hate all so-called graffiti. Just let me catch the bastards at at.

    That is all.