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Do Digital Billboards Have Any Place in Public Space?

A city-hired consultant has recommended an expansion of the areas where digital billboards are allowed in Toronto. The sign industry claims the billboards contribute to “vibrancy” but critics argue they're an unwelcome intrusion into public space.
October 9, 2013, 6am PDT | Kasper_O_Koblauch
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A recently released report from a city-hired consultant recommends permitting digital billboards in commercial and employment zones in Toronto, where they are currently forbidden. Meanwhile, Betsy Powell notes, “some U.S. cities, such as San Francisco, Denver, Houston and St. Louis, have banned them outright.”

“Opponents call [digital billboards] ‘visual pollution,’” writes Powell. “They say they pose a dangerous distraction to motorists and emit vast amounts of light that could potentially disrupt the sleep of thousands of downtown condo dwellers."

“On the other side,” she continues, “is the outdoor sign industry. It says there is no statistically significant link between electronic signs and car crashes and that the brightness of the signs can be adjusted within specific limits. Digital signs contribute to the vibrancy of the city, they say.”

"What nobody disputes is that digital billboards are an extremely lucrative business, especially in Canada’s most populous city."


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Published on Monday, October 7, 2013 in The Toronto Star
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