"More than nine thousand inappropriate outdoor billboards in the city, either in improper position or too big, will be renovated or taken down," promises the Shanghai City Appearance and Environmental Sanitation Bureau.

The commercial capital of the People's Republic plans to bring around 20,000 outdoor billboard sites under tighter controls in an effort to improve the city's safety and aesthetics in the countdown to the World Expo scheduled for Shanghai in 2010.

Explains city official Liu Weiguang: "This is an effort to make the city more beautiful and safer … five accidents involving outdoor billboards happened from July to September. In addition, huge billboards [sited] beside the elevated highway disturb drivers and might cause accidents too."

"Any billboards more than two years old must be checked every year before June 1, usually the beginning of the city's flood season," says Liu. "The penalty for not conducting the check could be up to Yuan 30,000 ($3,625; €2,677; £1,884)."

The new regulations also impose a bidding system as the sole way to lease billboards.

Data sourced from People's Daily Online; additional content by WARC staff