Civil Discourse Now

Where the far left and far right overlap for fun and enlightenment

Electronic billboards: Pat Andrews meets with industry officials.

   Pat Andrews at "Had Enough Indy?" blogged about the ordinance that has been proposed regarding electronic billboards in Marion County. As a result of her blogs, she was invited to meet with some of the folks in the billboard industry. She invited me along.

   On Tuesday, a little before 1 pm, I took a elevator to the27th Floor of what used to be the Bank One Building, but has been renamed Chase---after the bank that has done so much to so many people. We were o meet in the offices of the PR arm of Bose McKinney, at least part of the activities of which, as I understand, consists of lobbying.

   The room to which I was directed commanded an excellent view of downtown and beyond. Tables were arranged three to each side of a square, a large, open space in the middle. I was surprised at the absence of equipment for Power Point (r) demonstration. Trent Hahn, of Bose, and Mitch Matson, of the corporate entity previously known as CBS but now called Outfront Media(r) and  still one of the here largest billboard corporations in Marion County, introduced themselves. Others, as well as Pat, soon arrived. Representatives of Clear Channel(r) and Lamar(r)---the other two of the Big Tree billboard operators in Marion County also attended, as did lawyers from Ice Miller and Barnes and Thornburgh.

   Near the start of the meeting, one representative said billboard are not illegal anywhere. I pointed out the absence of billboards in Vermont. The scenery around Vermont's highways I beautiful. There are no billboards, only signs indicating exits and signs that warn of crossings for moose, deer, and bear. (These signs do not advertise the services of those creatures, and I doubt the bears and deer could afford lobbyists. On the other hand, as frequently was asked on "Rocky and Bullwinkle"---"What about Moose and Squirrel?" One must question those matters.) One of the gentlemen said oh yeah, about half-a-dozen state ban billboards, including Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Maine, but, as another gentleman pointed out, you know how those people in New England are.

   The agenda of the meeting was to correct Pat Andrews had made in her blog on "10 Things Yu Don't Know Abut the Billboard Ordinance." One problem for Pat was that the version of the propose ordinance on which Pat had based her blog, had been changed, so some of the points Pat ad made already had been clarified---if by "clarified" one means language was removed and arguments could be made without prior notice to Pat. I gave constructive criticism to the effect that they should put up their own web site, independent of the City-County Council's, to ensure the most current version of the proposed ordinance is available for review by members of the public.

MAJOR POINT TO CLARIFY

   The initial point the gentlemen wished to correct was Pat's contention that lobbyists wrote the ordinance. A representative from Clear Channel(r) pointed out: "Lobbyists didn't write this ordinance. We wrote this ordinance." This point was repeated at least a couple of times more during the nearly two hours the meeting lasted. We were given a handout in which Pat's points were addressed. About her allegation lobbyists wrote the ordinance, the handout stated, in relevant part:

   "1. The ordinance was not drafted by lobbyists. It was drafted  by local billboard companies after countless meeting with City-County Councilors and has been refined over the past three years with comments and concerns raised by members of the community including MCANA, NESCO and HUNI. The end result is intended to be a balancing o interests and provide the type of safeguards which address the concerns of the community while allowing our business to remain competitive with other newer ads like the ads which appear on your smart phone for example..."

   To say lobbyists did not write the ordinance misses an important point implicit in Pat's blog. The proposed ordnance, purports to regulate billboards. Whether written by lobbyists for the industry the ordinance would regulate, or by the industry itself, is irrelevant. Those who are regulated should no draft the regulations that limit their future options at transgression. If lobbyists did not write the ordinance, that only cut out a "middle man." Of course we met in the office of a firm that lobbies and, if I am not mistaken, the fellow who was said to have written "99 percent" of the proposed ordinance had to register as a lobbyist. Finally, Bose's R wing is listed on one version of the ordinance, as responsible for the content of the ordinance--i.e., wrote it. 

ORDINANCE DOES NOT CRATE MONOPOLY

   The three corporations that, one plausibly could argue, stand to benefit from the ordnance have worked hard over the last three years with members of the City-County Council to "balance" interests. The presumption was people LIKE billboards. Actually, lot of people do not like billboards. Even the proponents of similar municipal legislation in Santa Clarita, California referred to billboards as "blight." Anyway, the proposed ordnance would give three out-of-state corporations a virtual lock on the market. I pointed out that that a market in which fewer than six entities control ninety percent of that market is an oligopoly.

IMPLICATIONS NOT DISCUSSED

  1) Thee might be anti-trust implications, whether under the Sherman or Clayton Anti-trust acts, that could be a real bummer for three corporations that worked together to set he framework for a particular market. 

   2) If the Koch brothers get wind of this proposal, they might be tempted to erect an electronic billboard that runs nothing but political comment. I wonder how the United States Supreme out, as presently constituted, would vote on that?

  3) And that brings me to the subject of free speech: a topic will shall discuss on today's Show.

   At the end of the meeting, the representative from Outfront/formerly-CBS, said he was proud of the educational content of the billboards he saw on his drive down from Chicago to Indy: one was for a performance of the Indianapolis Children's Choir to take place in Chicago; a second was or programs offered by Butler University. He mentioned a third billboard with equally noble content I do not remember.

   I wanted to ask him about the billboards, up there on the Interstates around Chicago and for about ten miles on I-65 as one heads south, that dominate one's view, that advertise:  the Cirilla adult toy store (Are a man and a woman depicted on that sign or are those two women? Enquiring minds want to know); the casino in Hammond that has loose slots; Krazy Kaplan who will sell you four---no, five---no, seven! fireworks for the price of one!---the casino in Gary, the slots of which are looser than those in Hammond; several aw firms that handle anything from OVWI to divorce to personal injury---or all of them together!; the various gentlemen's clubs (strip clubs); or the casino in Michigan City, site of the loosest slots in Da Region.

   Pat Andrews will be our guest today on The Show. I extended an invitation to the gentlemen at the meting. None responded. They always can call.           

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