• Clear Channel Outdoor Continues to Fight Baltimore Billboard Tax

    Clear Channel Outdoor continues to challenge Baltimore’s billboard tax as a violation of the First Amendment.

    In February, a Maryland Tax Court judge upheld Baltimore’s tax, rejecting Clear Channel’s constitutional claims.  On June 29, Clear Channel filed a 35-page brief supporting its appeal to a Maryland circuit court.

    “The Tax Court wrongly concluded that Clear Channel was ineligible for First Amendment protection because it was engaged in the business of publishing third-party speech in exchange for financial compensation,” said Clear Channel’s brief.  “That conclusion is irreconcilable with long-established First Amendment precedent.”

    Baltimore enacted a billboard tax on June 20, 2013, at the rate of $15 per square foot of digital billboards and $5 per square foot on other billboards.  Clear Channel pays the city approximately $1.5 million a year under the tax.

    The tax is constitutionally flawed, says Clear Channel, because it singles out a small group of speakers for a unique financial burden.

    The company is represented by Sidley Austin of Washington, DC, and Rosenberg Martin Greenberg of Baltimore.

    A similar tax has recently cropped up in Cincinnati, and the industry is evaluating its next steps.  Insider will write more about the Cincinnati tax later this week.

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