Astronomers, Advertisers Reach Compromise on Electronic Billboard Legislation

May 9, 2017

Electronic billboards are restricted in most of Arizona to protect dark skies for astronomers. Now lawmakers have lifted the ban in a region of Mohave County. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports.

Dark skies over Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument
Credit Bob Wick, BLM

Thirty-five electronic billboards will be allowed within a forty-mile radius of Bullhead City. That’s fewer billboards in a smaller area than advertisers originally wanted. The compromise was hammered out after astronomers in Flagstaff and Tucson defeated an earlier version of the bill.

Jeffrey Hall, director of Lowell Observatory, says, "Certainly reducing the area was a concession by the billboard industry; having any area at all was a concession by the astronomy industry, since any addition of boards is more light in the state."

Hall says he’s concerned Arizona’s dark sky protections will be stripped away as the state’s population grows. But he says the new billboards won’t directly affect major observatories. He also points to language in the bill that encourages advertisers to minimize light pollution.