Policy & Advocacy - Truth vs. Myths

Myth #1: The Highway Beautification Act (HBA) was created to get rid of billboards

  • The HBA was designed to regulate billboards, not eliminate them

  • The HBA intended billboards to be located in commercial and industrial zones

  • "Advertising has a vital place in our economy," said President Lyndon Johnson, White House Conference on Natural Beauty, May 25, 1965.

Myth #2: Overall, people hate billboards

  • Most people say billboards provide useful information to travelers (Arbitron, 2002)

  • American public opinion has been steady for more than three decades, supporting regulation but not elimination of billboards (Dr. Charles R. Taylor, Professor of Marketing, Villanova University, 2002)

  • More than four out of five people feel digital billboards provide an important public service (Arbitron, 2008)

Myth #3: Billboard bans help tourism in places like Vermont

  • Tourism in Vermont and Maine (no billboards) has lagged the rest of the country and similar-sized states (William Lilley III, iMapData, 2001)

  • Loss of billboards causes immediate, significant economic harm to roadside businesses that rely on directional advertising

  • Most billboard advertising promotes local business; the travel-tourism sector is the Number One buyer of outdoor advertising

Myth #4: Most localities ban billboards

  • Regulation - not prohibition - is the norm

  • Four out of five localities provide opportunities for the construction of billboards (Survey of local ordinances conducted by Cleveland State Law Professor Alan C. Weinstein)

Myth #5: Billboards distract drivers, causing traffic safety problems

  • Billboards - even the most attention-getting billboards - do not affect driver behavior (Dr. Suzanne Lee, Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, 2004)

  • Comprehensive studies of accident data show that digital billboards have no statistical relationship with the occurrence of accidents (Tantala Associates, 2007 and 2009)

  • Digital billboards are safety-neutral from the driver standpoint (Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, 2007)

  • The federal government says tri-action billboards do not pose safety problems (FHWA, re amended Oregon state-federal agreement, Federal Register, April 2, 2002)

Myth #6: Billboards light up the skies at night

  • Most sky glow - some 96 percent - is produced by sources other than billboards.

  • Digital billboards are equipped with sensors so that lighting levels are adjusted for surrounding conditions to avoid glare

Myth #7: Amortization is just compensation

  • Amortization is an arbitrary time allotment, not compensation

  • Longstanding federal policy mandates cash compensation for billboards removed by government along federal roads

  • 44 states protect against amortization of billboard assets along state and local roads

  • Amortization is slow-motion confiscation (George F. Will, May 9, 1991)

Myth #8: Billboards are devices to promote vices: Smokes, sin and sex

  • Since the 1999 settlement agreement, cigarette makers have not advertised their brands via outdoor formats

  • The outdoor industry's code features an anti-obscenity clause and a 500-foot buffer from schools, parks, and places of worship)

  • OAAA member companies have adopted policies against accepting sexually-oriented business ads

Myth #9: Billboards don't pay taxes

  • Billboards are heavily taxed and heavily regulated

  • Billboard operators pay state, local and federal taxes

  • In addition to generating tax income for government, billboards also produce revenue via permit fees

Myth #10: Scenic Byways ban billboards

  • Federal policy "segments" scenic byways, allowing billboards in commercial and industrial areas