Paul Tullis's Grim Tidings

Bitter musings on politics and policy

Electronic billboards are a waste

with 2 comments

In the category of totally objectionable use of energy, I give you the electronic billboard:

An electronic billboard near the corner of Sunset Blvd. and Crescent Heights in Los Angeles

An electronic billboard near the corner of Sunset Blvd. and Crescent Heights in Los Angeles

I’ve noticed since returning to Los Angeles after three-and-a-half years away that these heinous things have popped up in various places around town. I guess with all the sitting in traffic we do around here, we’re capable of processing not one but two advertisements for crappy, overblown movies in the amount of time it takes to crawl through an intersection.

The same billboard, seconds later.

The same billboard, seconds later.

I’m all in favor of free speech for all kinds of ideas, but isn’t it time that the arcane and bizarre US Supreme Court ruling that corporate speech be as protected as individual speech gets overturned? The development of the electronic billboard is hardly among the most egregious instances of the polluting (I mean that literally and figuratively) influence of corporate speech, only the most recent.

The fundamental problem with the precedent is that it means those with the most money have an enormous advantage in the marketplace of ideas. Monsanto and Exxon are allowed to spew any kind of b.s. they wish and nobody can do anything about it except counter the disinformation — but which of these companies’ opponents and watchdogs has anything approaching their resources?

In the case of the billboard, certainly Viacom or whatever has the right to get its commercial message across. But is that ability impaired by restricting it to media that are not directly consuming unecessary energy every second? (At least these billboards are energy-saving LED lights.) And what of the rights of my children to live in a world vaguely resembling the one I was born into?

To get the ball rolling, the city of L.A. (or wherever) could ban these colossal wastes of energy; at the very least, they could require that the billboards generate their own energy with solar panels on the back or windmills on the top. While they’re at it, they could outlaw those driving billboard trucks, which waste energy both directly, through their own emissions and indirectly, by clogging traffic and thereby increasing everyone else’s.

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Written by ptullis

June 12, 2009 at 3:40 pm

Posted in environment

2 Responses

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  1. I find it creepy that the two palms and the McD’s sign in that photo seem natural, and only the billboard looks garish to me.

    Marc Herman

    June 17, 2009 at 1:44 pm

  2. Agreed, a huge waste of energy and ridiculous when juxtaposed to a reservoir or park.

    However, to digital junkies, I doubt this seems totally unnatural. It compliments other on-road distractions such as built-in car DVD players and navigation systems.

    Now, start displaying headlines related to governmental failures as opposed to the next sad action movie from Nicholas Cage, and maybe you can increase the LED billboard value a few notches.


    June 19, 2009 at 9:48 pm

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