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Measure Could Lead To More Digital Billboards In King County

Derek Wang

More digital billboards could be coming to King County. The County Council is scheduled to vote on legislation Monday that would make it easier for the high tech advertising signs to be installed. And as KUOW's Derek Wang reports, not everyone is excited about the billboards.


The legislation would allow traditional billboards to be converted into newer digital ones. King County Councilman Larry Phillips is sponsoring the measure. He's in favor of the digital billboards and says the signs can help during emergencies to convey warnings and messages, including an Amber Alert.

Phillips: "So that our Sheriff's Department in particular is very interested in being able to have to the appropriate digital billboards available for that purpose."

Phillips adds that the county would not receive any additional revenue from the legislation.

Critics argue that digital billboards are distracting. Paula Rees is with the group Keep King County Beautiful. On KUOW's "The Conversation," she said the digital signs are worse than traditional billboards, partly because of the increased advertising.

Rees: "You go from being able to have 12 images up in your landscape a year to a new image every eight seconds. That multiplies it to be about 3 million images a year."

The legislation does have some restrictions. The digital billboards could only go in what's called urban parts of unincorporated King County, places such as White Center or North Highline. The legislation would not allow the signs to go in rural areas. Also, Councilman Phillips says cities that are considering annexing the urban areas would have the power to scuttle the deal if they were opposed to billboards.

The legislation would mainly benefit one company, Clear Channel. The company owns the majority of billboards in King County. In a written statement, Clear Channel describes the digital billboards as being different from some others seen along I-5 that flash and blink. Clear Channel says their digital signs are static and act like "a digital picture frame."

I'm Derek Wang, KUOW News.

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