Supreme Court Decision Major Setback for Big Billboard Companies

In a major setback for some billboard companies, the California Supreme Court has unanimously declined to review an L.A. court ruling that could force the city to revoke permits for video billboards and to have them removed.

Less than a week ago, Clear Channel Outdoor threatened to make L.A. pay more than $100 million in damages unless the city worked with the company to keep the billboards lit.

In the case the court reviewed, Summit Media had sued Los Angeles over a settlement deal that exempted Clear Channel and CBS Outdoor from a ban on new video billboards. The lower court found that to be unfair and required the permits be revoked.

In last week's letter, Clear Channel demanded city officials work with the company to re-permit or relocate the billboards or face a new round of costly lawsuits. In response to the Supreme Court's action, Clear Channel Spokesman Jim Cullinan emailed us this statement:

"We are disappointed in the Court's decision, and disappointed that the City has rejected out of hand our proposed options including non-binding arbitration and relocation applications. Nevertheless, Clear Channel Outdoor continues to be an active, committed participant in the working group created by the City Council that is working to find solutions that allow for the reasonable use of digital signs while addressing the concerns raised by community groups. We prefer a comprehensive legislative solution that protects the critical economic and public safety benefits which digital signs deliver to the city, L.A. residents, local businesses, and the economy. However, these digital signs are valuable company assets, and if we are forced to turn them off or take them down, we will, as a last resort, seek appropriate compensation."

Anti-billboard activists continue to portray the company's actions as a "shakedown" and they claim the city can't be held liable for lawfully enforcing a court order.

Unless the case is appealed to the federal courts, it will go back to the local Superior Court judge who could soon order the city to take action against the video billboards.

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