Lamar Finally Finds a Billboard Ban It Likes: When It Hobbles a Competitor

Last Updated Sep 23, 2009 12:29 PM EDT

Lamar Advertising has finally found a legal restriction on billboard advertising that it agrees with: The ban on outdoor ads within 75 feet of roads in Panama City Beach, Fla. Why does Lamar want this ban enforced? Because one of its competitors, Summit Outdoor, has erected a sign 61 feet from one of PCB's roads. Lamar wants the sign taken down.

BNET has previously noted that Lamar's traditional argument is that no laws save the First Amendment should regulate billboards -- a position that would lead every town in the U.S. to end up looking like Los Angeles. But in PCB, Lamar has a strangely pro-regulation stance, per the News Herald:

"That sign is a big middle finger to the county," said Allen Place, director of real estate for Lamar. "I don't understand the problem. We just want everyone to follow the same rules."
Commissioner Mike Thomas doesn't think much of Place's rantings:
"I understand they're mad," he said. "But it was not something that was done intentionally. I'm afraid that little boy (Place) is going to have a heart attack. It's a mistake. People make them. I'm sure he'll make some as he gets older, too."
Lamar has gone all Big Gummint down in Pensacola, Fl., too. In that city, the council wants to restrict billboards to the current number, 111. Lamar rep Alan McDuff said the company supports the bill:
"We understand and acknowledge the city's need to control billboards and we support the new regulations," McDuff said.
Really? Or is it that grandfathering the existing billboard inventory would essentially give Lamar a valuable permanent asset in an area where such assets would become, by law, more rare?

Lamar also appears to be be getting its way in Richland County, S.C. Two new Richland County council members have revived a measure that would allow old billboards to be changed into more lucrative digital billboards. Despite a public hearing, the measure is likely to be approved. Note that in addition to the two new pols on the council, Lamar has the support of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.