Save the Landscape, Kill the Billboard – Part 2

Today I was listing to Talk of the Nation on NPR when a segment came on that was talking about how Roadside Advertising Goes Digital. I immediately started thinking about a recent post I did about Saving the Landscape and Killing the Billboard. Since I’m sure I’m not the only photographer who finds this topic relevant, I wanted to share this radio segment.

On this segment of TOTN, the focus was primarily on these new electronic billboards that are popping up all the country. If you haven’t seen one, image a plasma TV the size of a billboard; essentially that’s what they are. They flash a new advertisement on them once ever 10 or 15 seconds.

We have had these billboards in the San Francisco Bay Area for at least five years now. As you drive on Highway 101 from San Francisco south to the Silicon Valley, there is one right along the highway. They recently just installed on at the base of the Bay Bridge on the Oakland side. For a while there, they actually had a problem with sign; it was supposed to auto-dim at night time but wasn’t. It was downright blinding as you came off the bay bridge. (Luckily this has been fixed.) There is also an interesting off-air discussion about this on the TOTN Blog.

What I found really interesting during this segment was the guest they had on for interviews. Kevin Fry, president of Scenic America, talked at great length about the risk of these digital billboards and the legal aspect of how hard it is to take them down once they go up. Don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of Scenic America, I hadn’t before either. I find the quote on the first page of the website from the Washington Post describes them best: “An advocacy group that rivals roadside vegetation as billboards’ biggest foe.”

They seem to be an interesting group that is taking on the scenic blight of billboards across America. Check out the Scenic America website, they have some interesting information on billboards and the issues around them. It’s too bad their website isn’t fully operational…the links for “Donate” and “Take Action” don’t seem to work (bad timing/planning considering today’s radio time).

(Photo by

2 Replies to “Save the Landscape, Kill the Billboard – Part 2”

  1. Great post. As I recall the only county to ban billboards in the San Francisco bay area is Marin. They’ve had a ban in place for several years. If you’re ever driving through the area it makes a huge difference. It’s great to see Scenic America taking this on. I’ll have to read their site in greater detail later.


  2. Jim, I think your right about Marin having laws against bill boards. One interesting point on that was brought up during the radio program. One person called in and said that restricting bill boards is against the 1st Amendment right to free speech. The president of Scenic America corrected him with the fact that the Supreme Court has ruled that laws can be established to restrict the placement of billboards, but can’t control the content of the bill board once it has been put up.

    It was also interesting to hear about the legal and finical difficulties of trying to get a billboard removed. I think Scenic America has more details about that on their website as well.


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