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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Rome's Election Billboards: Dinosaurs in the Age of Social Media?


This set of billboards, on via Tiburtina across from the Verano cemetery, is one of many in Rome intended for the the display of large political posters ("maxi-manifesti") that for decades have been a part of Rome's electoral campaigns, in this case European parliamentary elections that will take place in June. 

They are installed every year about this time on the city's sidewalks, which are mostly asphalt, then removed after the elections. Some say they interfere with the movement of pedestrians (especially those with disabilities), others that the installation process can damage the sidewalks. It is clear that they are costly; the cost each year to Rome taxpayers is about 300,000 Euro, or about $325,000. There are more than 5,000 of them, distributed in 166 locations within the 15 local jurisdictions in the capital. 

But the most interesting criticism is that they are increasingly irrelevant in an age when political communication takes place not through posters but on the social media, not to mention radio and television. A recent article in the Rome daily newspaper, Il Messaggero, describes the billboards as "immortal," resisting the inevitable: AI. One city official calls the billboards "medieval," an epithet that wouldn't have much resonance for Americans, but means something to Europeans. 

In 2023 critics advanced a proposal to eliminate the billboards. It failed because to do so would require changing a 1956 national law that established and underpins the system. 


The set of billboards at center left have just been installed; they've been cleaned of old posters.

This set of billboards has also been recently installed, but already someone has put up posters for a trans/non-binary demonstration--probably an "illegal" poster.  

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