Montana's billboard battle

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HELENA - Montana roadsides could eventually sport video billboards that flash a slideshow of ads - a new one every six seconds - if a proposal passes official muster.

The proposal prompted an unusually contentious Department of Transportation hearing Friday, with supporters - mostly those from the billboard industry - squaring off against critics who feared the signs would be garish and distracting.

Lane Coddington, of Missoula, said the signs would be "ugly as all get out" and look like "television sets along the highway."

"There's not very many people in the state who want them," Coddington said. "Most of them are sitting in this room." Paul Dennehy, general manager of Lamar Outdoor Advertising in Billings, the state's largest billboard company, said the signs will not feature the kind of moving images common on signs along the Las Vegas Strip or New York City's Times Square.

The proposed signs would be no larger than existing billboards, he said, and would be indistinguishable from traditional billboards to drivers. The type would not dance, and images would not flash. The signs would feature still images of advertisements that would change every six seconds, perhaps more, like the slideshow of ads at movie theaters.

Dennehy said in an interview after the meeting that his company doesn't intend to put in any new billboards, but would convert three of its existing signs to the electronic format: two in Billings and a third someplace else in the state.

-"Digital billboards ugly, unwanted, critics say" by Jennifer McKee, Billings Gazette, Mar. 20
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