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City, Sign Cos. Working Together on Digital Billboard Plan

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Are we seriously back on digital billboards yet again? Blame the budget problems--the City Council is planning to vote today on the creation of a new working group in charge of writing new digital sign laws; the group would include reps from billboard companies. The latest idea is that the city would allow the billboards in exchange for a cut of the profits. According to the Daily News, "In the short term, new laws for digital billboards could benefit the roughly 100 digital displays owned by Clear Channel and CBS Outdoor," two of the biggest outdoor advertising firms. That means that it's not just neighborhood groups who are pissed about this latest development, it's also smaller billboard companies (think of the little light polluter!). The LA Times reports on the concerns of "billboard foes," who "contend that council members are doing the bidding of the outdoor advertising industry, keeping neighborhood activists in the dark about the planned talks and bypassing the committee where outdoor sign issues are typically vetted."

All of this has been going on since 2006, when the city let Clear Channel and CBS go digital as long as they took down "a tiny fraction of their inventory." Another billboard company sued, a judge sided with them, but "by that time, the two companies had put up a total of about 100 digital signs." An appeal of that decision will be heard later this month, which is what's driving these latest efforts.

The Daily News says that a digital billboard can pull in four times what a non-flashing visual assault does--about $100,000 to $300,000 a month.
· Critics alarmed by digital billboard plan that would pay city of L.A. [LADN]
· Activists on edge as L.A. City Council revisits digital signs [LAT]