Officials in two states battling about video billboards

| 3/21/2006

The average American household watches more than eight hours of television a day, according to a recent study by Nielsen Media Research. But what happens when the moving images begin making their way from the boob tube to the billboard?

That’s the question at least two states are trying to answer. In Tennessee and Montana, officials are hammering out new policies about whether to allow streaming video advertisements on the sides of roadways.

In Tennessee, for example, video billboards have previously been banned. However, according to The Tennessean newspaper, the state’s Department of Transportation is planning to revise its policies to allow electronic billboards that display still images, not video.

“Our sign experts have determined that, in their opinion, it would be too distracting to have streaming video on the interstates when cars are going at high speeds,” TDOT spokeswoman Kim Keelor told The Tennessean.

Tennessee’s policy revision is still underway, and will require a vote in the Legislature before it can be put into place.

Meanwhile, in Montana, DOT officials and billboard manufacturers are at odds over the state’s video-billboard policies. Rulemakers within the DOT have a proposal – which would require approval from the state’s Transportation Commission – that would allow billboards that present a slideshow of advertisements.

Supporters of the new rule said the slideshow would only rotate an image every six seconds, rather than displaying video, and would only be allowed in locations where billboards already exist, the Billings Gazette reported.

However, opponents worry that the rotating images would still be distracting to motorists, and would not fit well with the state’s scenic roadways.

“There’s not very many people in the state who want them,” Lane Coddington, a Missoula, MT, resident who attended a public hearing on the matter, told the Gazette. “Most of (those people) are sitting in this room.”