Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Reed v. Gilbert, Scenic America has received numerous inquiries from citizens, community organizations and public officials concerned about the ruling’s potential impacts on billboard regulation. In response, Scenic America’s volunteer legal committee has produced a report on Reed’s implications for billboard regulation.
The upshot is that the Reed ruling upholds longstanding recognition by the courts of the distinction between on-premises and off-premises sign regulation. The Courts have ruled that local governments may limit and even prohibit off-site (billboard) advertising based on the substantial governmental interests of aesthetics and traffic safety. An important concurring opinion in Reed reinforces the rights of municipalities to enforce rules on signage that are not content-based, but might be, for example, location-based, including (but not limited to) distinguishing between on-premises and off-premises signs.
Interestingly, the billboard industry’s trade association hired outside counsel to review the Reed decision and that counsel’s conclusions largely square with those of Scenic America’s legal committee.