From the ambulance-chaser sign on the back to the wrap across the side touting Hollywood's latest, a Los Angeles County bus sometimes resembles a billboard on wheels more than a transit alternative. But those ads are serious business, pumping more than $20 million a year into the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's budget at no cost to riders or taxpayers. So when it comes time to pick a billboard company to manage all that advertising, the choice matters.
That time has arrived, and unfortunately so has a nasty dispute between the current contractor, CBS Outdoor, and a rival outdoor media company called Titan. Although the MTA earlier accepted CBS' offer of $110 million to renew the contract for the next five years, Titan has appealed to the MTA board, which is expected to vote on the matter Thursday.
We don't often weigh in on such contract disputes because they usually involve high-priced lobbyists and PR agencies throwing unverifiable charges at one another, and generally speaking, one billboard operator is as good as another. That certainly applies in this case, which has been rendered even more unsavory than usual by the bullying of CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves. "We do a lot of production in Los Angeles," Moonves told The Times, adding that transit officials shouldn't award Titan the bus contract unless "they want to urge a company like us to leave and to do production out of state."