Outdoor Advertising

Restrictions or prohibitions on outdoor advertising have often been a target of legislation. Introduced bills from local, state and federal legislative bodies encompass a wide array of stipulations concerning the types of permissible advertisements and their locations.

AAF Position
Cities and others have a legitimate interest in enacting zoning restrictions. Outdoor advertising is often the most affordable media option for small and local businesses and is an effective way for community service organizations to communicate messages. Ninety percent of travelers rely on billboards to locate gas, food, lodging and tourist attractions. Demands to remove outdoor advertisements would be harmful to all advertisers. Vegetation control should be a part of billboard regulation.

Challenges to outdoor advertising come in many forms. Some legislation has sought to restrict outdoor advertising for specific products, such as alcohol or tobacco, within a set radius of schools, parks and residential areas. Opponents will often try to eliminate outdoor advertising though overly restrictive zoning regulations.

A bill passed the Kentucky Senate in 2007 that would have allowed vegetation control near outdoor advertising, increasing their value to advertisers and motorists. The bill advanced to the House floor, but the Speaker did not consider the bill for a vote before adjourning the session for the year. City council members on the City Plan Board of Dayton, Ohio, proposed new zoning rules in 2005 that would prohibit all city billboards by 2015. The plan would require all billboards to be removed with no compensation to owners. Some officials called the outdoor advertisements "tacky" and wondered what value they added to the city. The proposal was not enacted.

The Oregon Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that a state law restricting highway billboards violates free speech protections guaranteed in the state constitution, because it limits what companies are permitted to say on a billboard.

Legislation in past years has included a ban on outdoor advertising for alcohol and tobacco products within 1,000 feet of elementary and secondary schools in Illinois, a ban on tobacco and alcohol products on the New York Metropolitan Transit System and a plan to limit the size and scope of billboards in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Last updated: April 2007

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