More Billboards Coming To Los Angeles? Judge Rules City’s Off-Site Sign Ban Unconstitutional

Lamar Advertising has won a major court battle in its fight to put up new digital billboards like this one in Los Angeles

Lamar Advertising has won a major court battle in its fight to put up new digital billboards like this one in Los Angeles

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.

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L.A. Billboard Companies Maintain Big Lobbying Push in 2014

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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.