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Judge Pulls the Plug on 77 Digital Billboards Around Town

Photo by gsbrown99 via Flickr
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Over six dozen digital billboards that normally flash and shine over L.A.'s streets have been ordered shut off on Monday, April 15 by a Los Angels Superior Court judge.

The order comes as a result of a long-running tension between the billboard owners, CBS Outdoor Inc., and Clear Channel Outdoor, Inc., the City of Los Angeles, and anti-digital billboard activists.

The companies must turn off their signs by 5 p.m. Monday.

"This is what we've been waiting for now for six years," said Dennis Hathaway, president of the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight, according to the L.A. Times.

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Clear Channel Outdoor spokesman David Grabert, VP of Marketing & Communication, said the following in a written statement about the order:

“Clear Channel Outdoor will follow Judge Green’s decision and turn off our signs. However, we will take all legal steps to renew operation of our signs in order to serve our customers and the community.

Turning off these signs, even temporarily, hurts the community and the economy of the City of Los Angeles by eliminating a vital public safety and community resource and a valuable effective advertising tool for local and national businesses. Going forward, Clear Channel Outdoor is committed to working collaboratively with City leaders and stakeholders to establish a legislative solution for digital signs.”

Clear Channel operates 67 of the affected signs.The billboards were installed under a 2006 special legal settlement approved by the L.A. City Council that ended a previous lawsuit over the city's billboard inspection laws and fees. The settlement allowed CBS and Clear Channel Outdoor to convert 840 static billboards to digital signs in exchange for removing other static billboards.

Three years later, a Superior Court judge ruled the settlement illegal and "poison," and the city stopped issuing permits to the companies, but it was too late: Over 100 billboards owned by CBS and Clear Channel had already gone up. Both companies have tried to challenge the ruling, but to no avail, and last month, L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich used a press conference to remind the companies that the December, 2012 court decision was the end of the line for their appeals.

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