Billboards are a blight for so many reasons. The new digital LED billboards are particularly offensive; they are not only in your face, burning electricity, disturbing neighbours, but they are dangerous.
A lot of people feel this way. In fact, there is a non-profit called Scenic America that is out to change this; they write:
Throughout the country, our most cherished scenic resources and hometown assets are being obscured by a blizzard of monstrous billboards,badly sited telecommunications towers, a tangle of overhead lines, and a hodgepodge of visual clutter. Open space is being lost. Our natural and cultural heritage is being buried under unconstrained development and poorly designed transportation systems. America's beauty and community character are being obliterated by a steel curtain of visual spam.
They don't just do digital either; they fight those tree cutting laws that permit billboard owners to chop down CO2 eating trees to improve the view of CO2 emitting billboards. (We covered another incident of this idiocy: Only In America: Billboards Have Rights, Trees Don't.)
Regarding the new scourge of digital billboards, they quote Seattle Times columnist Neal Peirce, who writes:
There have been no nationwide U.S. surveys to gauge Americans’ opinion of the digital boards. But there’s little question — in communities where citizens have a strong voice, opposition is high. And it is especially vociferous when the signs invade populated areas, flashing through peoples’ bedroom windows.
Local governments, however, find themselves under big pressure to give in. And from two sides: the billboard lobby — seeing dollars dance before its eyes at every advance — and from local politicians in search of municipal revenue (and sometimes in search of campaign contributions).
Where I live, in Toronto, Canada, the billboard industry pays for the biggest gaggle of lobbyists in City Hall. According to the Star,
Astral Media lobbied councillors on 278 occasions on billboard-related issues between 2008 and July 20 of this year, with CBS Outdoors in third place, with 145. The second most active lobbying client was the Canadian Plastics Industry Association with 153 — in large part due to its concern over plans earlier this year to ban plastic bags.
A Star analysis of the 6,421 records stored in the online lobbyist registry revealed that, of the 8 per cent of all registrations that were sign-related matters, activity by Astral and CBS accounted for more than half of them.
They now want to cover Toronto with digital billboards.
That's why I am so thrilled that Scenic Toronto has arrived, a new northern affiliate. They are "dedicated to preserving and enhancing the visual character of of Toronto's communities and neighbourhoods." They write:
The outdoor advertising industry readily admits that digital billboards are designed to distract drivers.
It's outrageous that we are allowing digital signage to proliferate in Toronto, at the same time that we are trying to control other distractions such as texting, phonecalls, etc.
City staff insist that digital billboards are safe. They're wrong. Many reports have shown a direct causal relationship between digital billboards and driver distraction. City Council has an obligation to protect the health and safety of Toronto's residents. We support a moratorium on any new digital billboards in the City to protect drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.
I have noted earlier that I objected to LED billboards and TVs in toilets as an example of Jevons' Paradox, where the dropping cost and greater efficiency of LED technology has led to more electrical consumption through stupid uses like this. Now we learn that they might be killing us, too.
Thanks to the gang behind Scenic Toronto. This is no longer just a local fight, but part of an international movement.