New Legal Strategy? Latest Billboard Company Lawsuits Name Community Activists
Dennis Hathaway over at Ban Billboard Blight just sent me a link to the Blu mural controversy in the LA times. He thought I would find it interesting, although I'm not sure I want to speak directly about the censorship at this time. That said, Dennis has a unique understanding of media production in public space in LA. This position makes him acutely aware of the abuses of public space by commercial media and the incredible pressure the public must put on advertising companies to have them act within the will of the general public. Commenting on the Blu mural removal, he sees a deep disconnect between public media production and private media production in our shared spaces. He writes...
"The irony is that on Thursday the city planning commission is holding a hearing on a major development just a few blocks away that proposes to have large swaths of electronic advertising signs embedded into the walls of the building. So public space can be appropriated to display the products of capitalism, but that space must be kept free of comments upon capitalism."
While Dennis clearly sees the irony within which public space continually operates, championing commercial forces while tip toeing around public media productions, his concerns are dismissed wholeheartedly by the companies promoting private media within Los Angeles. This is made clear in a recent lawsuit in which Dennis, amongst others, challenged permits obtained by CBS Outdoor and Clear Channel to convert standard billboards into digital signage. The companies claimed that the parties had no right to challenge the permits in court as none of the parties were "aggrieved" by the billboards in question.
While there are many reasons why a politically active and socially engaged citizen might take issue with specific outdoor signage as well as the companies' continued abuse of the law and public opinion, in light of the recent Blu mural controversy Dennis seems to define another reason why regular citizens should be "aggrieved" by outdoor medias abuse of public space. Time and time again, massive controversial commercial signage is allowed to stand despite public outcry and or basic disregard to the law, and time and time again, public media productions are forced into a theatre of public opinion.
While the later is not a bad thing, the disconnect between the response to the two types of media production is enough to make any concerned citizen irate. We all know the common saying "money talks and bullshit walks", in this situation the bullshit we are talking about is the very means to which the public creates and identifies social issues and common concerns in public space. If public conversations through public media productions are silenced because they don't have the "money to talk" in public space, well we clearly aren't operating our public spaces in a beneficial manner.
The president of the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight (CBBB) and the heads of homeowner’s groups who challenged permits issued for digital billboards in the Westwood area have been named as parties in lawsuits filed against the city of Los Angeles by Clear Channel Outdoor and CBS Outdoor. More [Here]