In a big reversal for Clear Channel Outdoor and CBS Outdoor, earlier this week an appellate court ruled that permits for 100 digital billboards around Los Angeles are void, because the L.A. City Council had no right to issue them under the city’s own laws. This means that, barring some outside intervention by a higher court at the state or federal level, Clear Channel and CBS will have to dismantle the digital billboards.
The Los Angeles attorney general struck a deal with the two outdoor companies in 2006 allowing them to continue operating signs built prior to 1986, and also allowing them to convert up to 840 billboards to digital signs, as part of a settlement of an earlier court case. This week the appellate court ruled that this agreement violated the city’s own 2002 law forbidding conversion of static billboards to digital displays; according to the ruling, the city does not have the power to issue exemptions from the law.
This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all over, as the L.A. government is putting up quite a fight. According to the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight, two members of the current city council are asking the city’s legal team to prepare a report about the potential economic ramifications for the city, as well as the likelihood of fresh lawsuits threatened by Clear Channel and CBS, and the possibility of issuing new, valid permits in place of the invalid permits.
At this point Clear Channel and CBS basically have one course of action left open to contest the ruling: taking it to the California Supreme Court. The LA billboard saga promises to drag on well into 2013, if not beyond.