This excerpt taken from the CCO 10-K filed Feb 14, 2008.
Government regulation of outdoor advertising may restrict our outdoor advertising operations.
United States federal, state and local regulations have a significant impact on the outdoor advertising industry and our business. One of the seminal laws was the HBA, which regulates outdoor advertising on the 306,000 miles of Federal-Aid Primary, Interstate and National Highway Systems (controlled roads). The HBA regulates the size and location of billboards, mandates a state compliance program, requires the development of state standards, promotes the expeditious removal of illegal signs, and requires just compensation for takings. Construction, repair, maintenance, lighting, upgrading, height, size, spacing and the location of billboards and the use of new technologies for changing displays, such as digital displays, are regulated by federal, state and local governments. From time to time, states and municipalities have prohibited or significantly limited the construction of new outdoor advertising structures, and also permitted non-conforming structures to be rebuilt by third parties. Changes in laws and regulations affecting outdoor advertising at any level of government, including laws of the foreign jurisdictions in which we operate, could have a significant financial impact on us by requiring us to make significant expenditures or otherwise limiting or restricting some of our operations.
From time to time, certain state and local governments and third parties have attempted to force the removal of our displays under various state and local laws, including condemnation and amortization. Amortization is the attempted forced removal of legal but non-conforming billboards (billboards which conformed with applicable zoning regulations when built, but which do not conform to current zoning regulations) or the commercial advertising placed on such billboards after a period of years. Pursuant to this concept, the governmental body asserts that just compensation is earned by continued operation of the billboard over time. Amortization is prohibited along all controlled roads and generally prohibited along non-controlled roads. Amortization has, however, been upheld along non-controlled roads in limited instances where provided by state and local law. Other regulations limit our ability to rebuild, replace, repair, maintain and upgrade non-conforming displays. In addition, from time to time third parties or local governments assert that we own or operate displays that either are not properly permitted or otherwise are not in strict compliance with applicable law. Although we believe that the number of our billboards that may be subject to removal based on alleged noncompliance is immaterial, from time to time we have been required to remove billboards for alleged noncompliance. Such regulations and allegations have not had a material impact on our results of operations to date, but if we are increasingly unable to resolve such allegations or obtain acceptable arrangements in circumstances in which our displays are subject to removal, modification, or amortization, or if there occurs an increase in such regulations or their enforcement, our operating results could suffer.
A number of state and local governments have implemented or initiated legislative billboard controls, including taxes, fees and registration requirements in an effort to decrease or restrict the number of outdoor signs and/or to raise revenue. While these controls have not had a material impact on our business and financial results to date, we expect states and local governments to continue these efforts. The increased imposition of these controls and our inability to pass on the cost of these items to our clients could negatively affect our operating income.
International regulation of the outdoor advertising industry varies by region and country, but generally limits the size, placement, nature and density of out-of-home displays. Significant international regulations include the Law of December 29, 1979 in France, the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) Regulations 1992 in the United Kingdom, and Règlement Régional Urbain de lagglomération Bruxelloise in Belgium. These laws define issues such as the extent to which advertisements can be erected in rural areas, the hours during which illuminated signs may be lighted and whether the consent of local authorities is required to place a sign in certain communities. Other regulations limit the subject matter and language of out-of-home displays. For instance, the United States and most European Union countries, among other nations, have banned outdoor advertisements for tobacco products. Our failure to comply with these or any future international regulations could have an adverse impact on the effectiveness of our displays or their attractiveness to clients as an advertising medium and may require us to make significant expenditures to ensure compliance. As a result, we may experience a significant impact on our operations, revenue, International client base and overall financial condition.
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