'TVs on a Stick' Spark Battles Across the US

Since the Federal Highway Administration relaxed a rule against digital billboards in 2007, communities across the country have struggled with how to balance concerns about distracted drivers and disfigured landscapes with the desires of advertisers.
February 4, 2013, 12pm PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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"Communities around the country increasingly are in fights over digital billboards: glaring, changeable roadside signs that visually scream for attention," reports Larry Copeland. Los Angeles, for instance, has been debating their presence since before the Federal Highway Administration "relaxed a rule against digital billboards on federal highways in 2007." Since that ruling, says Copeland, the number of digital billboards on local streets and freeways "has exploded" - "from 1,800 to 4,000 since 2010, according to industry group Outdoor Advertising Association of America."

"Critics, such as the conservation group Scenic America, call them 'TV on a stick' that distract drivers, disfigure the landscape and disturb the sleep of nearby residents."

"They create 'a Las Vegas effect,' says county Commissioner Richard Briggs of Knox County, Tenn., who's trying to stop companies from converting existing billboards into digital signs."

"I'm very pro-business, but I believe in protecting the aesthetic of our community," Briggs says. "I like Las Vegas, but that's not what we want here in the cradle of Southern Appalachia."

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Published on Thursday, January 31, 2013 in USA Today
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