LA City Council Votes To Let Digital Billboards Stay

With its car culture, freeways, and numerous billboards, Los Angeles is often integral to outdoor advertising trends -- which has recently included the backlash against the “visual clutter” of outdoor advertising, with a particular focus on digital billboards. But after a six-year battle, the LA City Council reached an agreement that may be regarded as at least a partial victory for digital billboards.

Last week the LA City Council voted 11-3 to adopt new regulations (which have yet to be formulated) that would enable existing digital billboards to remain in operation. Specifically, this decision would allow Clear Channel Outdoor and CBS Outdoor to continue operating around 100 digital billboards already installed around the city, in return for a cut of the revenues, which could yield up to $25 million per year for the city.

Originally Clear Channel and CBS had hoped to convert 420 of their existing billboards to digital displays, and had in fact obtained permission from the LA City Council to do so in 2006. But another sign company, Summit Media, sued to stop the deal, saying it was unfair to other competitors, and in 2009 the LA County Superior Court agreed with Summit and blocked the arrangement.

The latest City Council vote comes shortly before an appeals court is due to hear the case, and digital billboard opponents accuse the councillors of trying to beat the court to the punch and short-circuit the legal process. It’s unclear at this point whether, and how, the city council vote will affect the appeals court decision.

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