Los Angeles billboard companies and employees have contributed more than $78,000 to candidates running for six City Council seats in the March 3 primary election, according to the latest City Ethics Commission reports.
At a Dec. 16 meeting of the L.A. City Council’s PLUM committee, Councilman Mitchell Englander proposed that some 1,000 billboards that either lack permits or have been altered in violation of their permits be legalized. This “amnesty” as Englander called it is necessary because any attempt to enforce the law against Clear Channel and other sign companies would land the city in court for years to come. Englander said “there’s no question in my mind” that the city would face litigation over the issue and that such litigation would “tie up incredibly valuable resources.”
The major developments on the billboard front in 2014 came near the end of the year, with a major court ruling and a move by a city council committee, both of which could have devastating effects on efforts to control billboard blight. Here’s what happened: (more…)
Christmas came early for Clear Channel and other billboard companies when a Los Angeles City Council committee decided Tuesday to press forward with plans that could allow hundreds of new digital billboards throughout the city and grant “amnesty” to more than 1,300 billboards that are either unpermitted or in violation of their permits.
Now that Superior Court judge Luis Lavin has ruled that L.A.’s 2002 ban on new billboards violates the California Constitution, what’s next? Are new billboards going to be sprouting like hothouse mushrooms along the city’s major thoroughfares? Especially digital billboards, with their ability to attract the attention of drivers with their Jumbotron-like graphics and rapidly changing ads for cars, fast food, booze, electronic gadgets, and what seems like every movie and TV show about to hit theaters and home entertainment centers?
Los Angeles has been trying to shed its label as the country’s billboard capital, but Clear Channel and other companies pushing to put up new digital billboards got a major boost this week when a Superior Court judge ruled that the city’s ban on new off-site signs violates the free speech guarantee of the California state constitution.
With major signage issues pending before the City Council, L.A. billboard companies spent just over $1 million lobbying city officials in the first six months of 2014, according to City Ethics Commission reports. Reports are required to be filed quarterly, and the three-month period ending June 30 marked the sixth straight quarter that billboard companies paid more than half a million dollars to firms to lobby on their behalf.
As usual, the leader of the lobbying parade was Clear Channel Outdoor, the billboard division of the Texas media giant, Clear Channel Communications. The company that has mounted a highly-visible public effort to persuade the City Council to allow more digital billboards paid four different lobbying firms a total of $241,000 for the six-month period.
Others writing big checks to lobbyists were CBS Outdoor, at $195,000; JC Decaux, at $189,00; and Lamar Advertising, at $136,000. CBS Outdoor and Lamar, along with Clear Channel, are also members of the Los Angeles Outdoor Advertising Coalition, which spent $122,972 to influence city decision-makers.
Louisiana-based Lamar is suing the city to force it to issue permits for 45 new digital billboards. JC Decaux, a French company with international operations, holds the current advertising contract for LAX and other city airports.
Other lobbying expenditures by billboard companies are as follows:
Regency Outdoor $62,727
Van Wagner $60,111 (note: Van Wagner billboards were recently acquired by CBS Outdoor)
Summit Media $28,937
National Promotions & Advertising $12,075
Titan Outdoor $7,500
The Ethics Commission reports show that a total of 23 lobbying firms were registered to lobby on behalf of one or more of the nine billboard companies.
Quite a few people seem to think that billboard ads for FX’s new TV series, “The Strain,” not only cross the line between good and bad taste but use the public viewscape to display inappropriate content to children. And some wonder why such content is allowed where parents have no control short of covering their children’s eyes when driving the city streets.
New digital billboards could be coming to L.A. residents and motorists on one of the busiest stretches of freeway in the city, thanks to a proposal being considered by Culver City, an island of 40,000 people surrounded by Los Angeles.
To say that billboards are a delivery system for commercial advertising is to state the obvious to anyone who sees them looming above city streets, hung from the sides of buildings, or affixed to bus shelters, subway walls, and other public amenities. But because many people regard this intrusion into the landscape as both visual blight and an unhealthy commercialization of public space, the public relations arm of the billboard industry conducts regular campaigns to convince people that billboards are much more than just a platform for selling cars, fast food, movies, and myriad other products and services.