A banner month for the Golden Globes [Wednesday's Coffeebreak Quiz answer]
Yesterday's Opinion L.A. Coffeebreak Quiz asked you to find street banners hung from public light poles on the public right-of-way along public streets in Los Angeles that advertise a commercial television program.
The answer: The Golden Globes, or rather, the TV broadcast of the Golden Globes on NBC on Sunday.
A spokeswoman for L.A.'s Board of Public Works explained that the banners don't really promote a TV show ("LIVE SUNDAY JAN 15." And a very familiar-looking peacock. Please). No, see, they promote the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the sponsor of the Golden Globes, and, see, the association is a nonprofit, so it's OK.
By the way, although the banners appear courtesy of the public streets and lightpoles of Los Angeles, the Golden Globes are being presented in another city -- Beverly Hills -- which will reap whatever tax benefits are to be had from the event. NBC is located in another city -- Burbank. But at least the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is located in -- no, wait. Not Los Angeles. West Hollywood.
But people in Los Angeles get to watch.
The banners strike the Opinion L.A. team as the most blatant re-commercialization of the city's non-commercial street banner program since a TV network battle turned into Bannergate in 1999. That's when CBS complained that ABC had hung bright yellow banners advertising shows for that year's the fall season. City rules barred commercial companies from using the streets as part of their promotional programs, although nonprofits were OK. The flap moved the City Council to fine-tune its rules. See way-back-when stories from the Times, (and here), the Los Angeles Business Journal, and the LA Weekly.
But commercial advertising on street banners, if you can get away with it, is cheap (compared with billboards) and effective, so for-profit ventures are seeking and barreling through anything that looks like a loophole. City officials seem to be OK with it.
So if Los Angeles is going to turn its light poles into commercial billboards anyway, shouldn't City Hall just throw in the towel, allow advertising of any product or service and get some real money instead of the paltry $25 to $100 per-pole the city charges (plus $100 to $150 per banner to the maker)?
We editorialized on that question recently: No. But it may be time for a follow-up.
Photo: A banner on Lankershim in Studio City advertising the Golden Globes show Sunday night. Credit: Robert Greene / Los Angeles Times