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The Media Technology

Clear Channel Plans To Roll Out Digital Billboards 300

Tree131 writes "Just in case you don't have enough distractions driving on the highway, Clear Channel is planning to roll out digital billboards. The new billboards will feature ads that depend on the time of day as well as the general area demographics. I wonder how long before someone with lots of time on their hands hacks into the system and starts tampering with the messages."
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Clear Channel Plans To Roll Out Digital Billboards

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  • Nothing new? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Dj Stingray ( 178766 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @01:52AM (#8845022)
    We even have digital billboards in Salt Lake already..... I thought they had these everywhere..
  • by Neil Blender ( 555885 ) <> on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @01:54AM (#8845029)
    I'd say about as quickly as my cable has been hacked to tamper with the commercials and programming I watch.
    • I dunno. I can imagine them being hacked with a statement that says "You are sheep, you must buy our product". Heh, it kind of reminds me of the movie They Live.

    • I wonder why the nerds who post stories, almost always, assume that the system is gonna be networked? Why can't it be assumed to be run out of a plain old DVD player or something not networked, for a change?

      • Because it's cheaper to network it. If they can stick in a DSL or even ISDN line to get it new ads then they've saved a fortune over sending out a tech to change CDs ever few weeks. Add in remote diagnostics and they'll save a packet.

        Now, I can't see this running over the net or WiFi unless they're _really_ stupid but, having said that, we've seen VB cash machines so who knows?

      • It doesn't have to be networked to get hacked. If it's a DVD player, for instance, it could be hacked by climbing up the ladder to where the DVD player is located and swapping out the advertising disc with "Real Butts 14".

        More likely the displays have a small amount of solid-state storage in them, and a serial port so they can be updated by plugging a laptop into them.
  • Fuck Clear Channel (Score:4, Informative)

    by MrP- ( 45616 ) <> on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @01:54AM (#8845030)
    Fuck Clear Channel []
    • by InfiniteWisdom ( 530090 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @02:48AM (#8845278) Homepage
      The FCC imposed a half-million dollar fine, and more seriously threatened to cancel their license due to the repeated flagrant violations. That is a risk simply not worth taking for them.

      • Err... Just because Janet Jackson showed her boob on TV, FCC decided to crack down harder on radio companies, so ClearChannel could drop Howard Stern permanently; but Howard Stern can still do his show on TV. Look, I'm no Howard Stern fan, but it looks like there's more to this than that. Maybe it's that a lot of people listen to Howard Stern on radio, and neither FCC, nor current government in general likes or agrees with his opinions or even his topics, so they decided to make it hard for him.

  • Clear Channel can then bend over and take it in the ass like they have no the Free Speech issue.

    We demonize Clear Channel as this media goliath that can't be hurt or tamed by anything, but the way they are fellating the government lately, it seems like they are willing to do anything with the right incentive.

    The question is how to persuade them to support Free Speech and good music.
  • Ads (Score:5, Funny)

    by thefiremonk ( 770811 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @01:56AM (#8845042)
    Will they have X-rated ads at 2 am?
  • Lawyers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by noelo ( 661375 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @01:56AM (#8845045)
    Are going to love this. Imagine the number of court cases which will litigate agains CC when they claim that the driver was distracted by the billboards. I wonder how this will relate to the laws which are being considered for banning in-car dvd players....
    • Re:Lawyers (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ahfoo ( 223186 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @02:04AM (#8845078) Journal
      I was wondering the same thing.
      Living outside of Taipei and commuting into town, I'm already exposed to quite a few digital billboards. I think they're cool and seem perfectly normal in Taiwan, but it's worth noting that Taiwan's sign standards are a lot closer to Vegas than any other western city I've seen. And I recall that in San Diego and LA even flashing neon signs are prohibited except in certain "historical" districts.
      Adding that with California's prohibition on front seet LCDs makes it seem this is going to be a difficult trick to pull off at least in California.
      • Re:Lawyers (Score:2, Interesting)

        by krosk ( 690269 )
        I don't know if there would be that many lawsuits as long as there were certain restrictions set on the billboards...

        First, moving images and flashy graphics would definately be a no-no. As long as the image stayed somewhat static it wouldn't be a big distraction to drivers. Just as billboards today can have as many bright colors and some even have flashy glittering tin-foil-type-stuff to draw attention, they do not attempt to sustain the driver's constaint attention.

        second, although the brightness wo

      • Re:Lawyers (Score:2, Informative)

        by michaelhood ( 667393 )
        I see these [] on the 405 every day (Los Angeles). It's already been done. No clue why this was news-worthy. If ClearChannel doesn't already have these, they're behind the times.
    • Re:Lawyers (Score:5, Funny)

      by 33degrees ( 683256 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (seerged33)> on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @02:45AM (#8845266)
      Of course lawyers are going to live this; chances are, at least half the ads are going to be FOR lawyers:

      "Hello, have you just gotten into an accident while looking at this billboard? If so, then call us, at..."

      The other half of the adds will be for insurance companies.
    • Re:Lawyers (Score:3, Interesting)

      There was a scrolling-message board attached to a big sign near where I live. The sign was advertising something like a new hotel/casino complex being build on the land behind the sign. The problem I had with it was that it uses red lamps (or giant red LEDs, maybe) and the message wasn't just static - it flashed on and off a few times for each 'page'. This made it look a lot like brake lights at the side of the road and, worse, it reflected off nearby vehicles, making it look like they were braking.


    • I wonder if anyone said this when the standard, static billboards were first introduced.

  • by eekrano ( 757106 )
    "I wonder how long before someone with lots of time on their hands hacks into the system and starts tampering with the messages." Who's going to need 'alot of time on thier hands' to start working on this? This could be better than for the more sadistic and technically capable out there. So who's willing to throw in on how long after the first one's up does it get hacked? This billboard could be entertaining in more ways than 1!
    • by Technician ( 215283 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @02:16AM (#8845137)
      If they use a regular FM broadcast (why pay a paging company) and it's subchannel to send the information to the billboard, then the protocol would be sniffable. The trick would be swamping the input on the billboard to get your signal into it. You would have to be pretty close to do it since you are competing with a 50KW station most of the time.

      For more information on subchannels, Google SCA subchannel.
      • You would have to be pretty close to do it since you are competing with a 50KW station most of the time.

        With 10+ stations in every market, I highly doubt they get info on your radio by any broadcast signal. They probably get it by listening to stray signals coming from the superheterodyne circuit in the recievers. It's very weak in modern equipment (heavy RF sheilding and FM on chip technology), but it can be detected. All you would need to screw it up is an old "transistor" radio (one with seperate tran
        • I highly doubt they get info on your radio by any broadcast signal.

          This has nothing to do with sniffing the radio in my car. This has everything to do with sniffing the signal from a Clear Channel FM station to the billboard. Picking up the 50 KW signal and looking at it's SCA subcarriers for data to the billboards is the sniffing mentioned. Replacing the signal from a 50 KW Clear Channel station in the area of the billboard to put in a hacked signal to the billboard is the competing with the 50 KW sta
      • "You would have to be pretty close to do it since you are competing with a 50KW station most of the time..."

        Not necessarily. If you could get within, say, a quarter-mile or so of the thing with about 50 or so watts, you'd probably do just fine. Remember that FM receivers exhibit a little something called the 'capture effect.' This is nothing more than the tendency for the receiver to capture and demodulate the strongest signal it hears.

        Now, I know that 50kW sounds like a lot for a broadcast station, and i
  • A pre-digital era subvertising guide []. Imagine the opportunities on a subverted digital board.
  • The OS (Score:5, Funny)

    by Paladin144 ( 676391 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @02:02AM (#8845067) Homepage
    Hopefully it will be running on Windows Me. That way, most of the time we won't be distracted by the blue screens (of death). The color might even be soothing.
    • Re:The OS (Score:2, Funny)

      by EEBaum ( 520514 )
      A couple years ago there was one in L.A., off the 405, that had an "Out of Virtual Memory" Windows error message on it for a few weeks straight, if not months.
  • by teamhasnoi ( 554944 ) <.teamhasnoi. .at.> on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @02:02AM (#8845070) Journal
    with a .22.

    It's about time the common man can let Clear Channel know how they feel.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      The Telco EQ is 'designed' to not be damaged by a .22 round. If CC follows a similar design idea, you won't get too far with your .22.

      If you plan on 'reprograming' CC eq, I'd suggest a .308 or for the serious 'reprogrammer' - the 50 cal.

      I know the .308 and the .243 rounds will put a hole in a 1/4 inch hunk of plate steel, and will dent 3/8 inch. I have no idea what a 50 cal will do....
    • by KalvinB ( 205500 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @02:45AM (#8845264) Homepage
      an unlawful act.

      But if you're going to do it anyway, take a video camera.

    • The billboard on 101 in Redwood City CA is dangerously bright - too distracting at night. It has been real tempting to get some of my gun-owning friends together and take care of the problem, and it's really more of a job for an AK47 than a 22. (Actually, thermite on the supports, or big wire-cutters on the power feeds are more appropriate.) Even spray-paint would do just fine.

      I don't mind that it's Clear Channel, though that's certainly worth a couple of extra Brownie(tm) points, but it's just way too

  • by Gary Destruction ( 683101 ) * on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @02:05AM (#8845084) Journal
    I saw a site that had pictures of digital billboards with Windows Error messages on them. This is the picture I saw [], although I can't remember the original site. It's not a crash but apparently, someone's missing a driver disk.
  • This is Funny (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bruha ( 412869 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @02:10AM (#8845108) Homepage Journal
    My dad's a truck driver and keeps a laptop with a 1xRTT card in but also uses his WiFi card when at truck stops. When he was drivng through Utah he kept picking up a SSID and since I setup his wifi equipment he calls me asking what the hell is this SSID he kept picking up and goofing his connections whenever he stoped somewhere to access the net.

    Turns out it was a billboard company in Salt Lake who after I contacted them really didnt care that they're systems were out there broadcasting their SSID's and assigning people's laptops a friggin IP!!

    I'm curious if someone's managed to redesign a few billboards out there.
  • Yeah (Score:2, Funny)

    Just what people need, a TV on the roadside.... I think the real question is how long before they start showing Survivor on them ;)
  • Synergy with radio (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @02:13AM (#8845116)
    Clear Channel can get a pretty good idea who's driving at any hour a day based on adding up the radio listening data... they can do supplemental surveys to subtract out at-work listeners so that they only count in-car listeners to figure out what the demographic that's going to pass their billboards at each hour of the day will be.

    Their killer app will be to link together packages that promise to reach a certain number of impressions to a given demographic.. based on who's expected to drive by at the hours that the given ad is up. That's what ad buyers really want, is to only count the people who are likely to consider buying the product being pitched... everyone else doesn't count. Doing it this way, they'll be able to get more milage out of their existing boards.
    • Clear Channel can get a pretty good idea who's driving at any hour a day based on adding up the radio listening data... they can do supplemental surveys to subtract out at-work listeners so that they only count in-car listeners to figure out what the demographic that's going to pass their billboards at each hour of the day will be.

      Dear God! They can't be allowed to control that kind of information! It's almost like those godawful bastards at Google who want to give us all a free gigabyte of e-mail storing

    • by jafuser ( 112236 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @03:25AM (#8845417)
      How long do you think it'll be before they OCR your license plate using cameras spread around town, track where you go, where you park, and then advertise to you based on your shopping habits?

      They wouldn't even need to necessarily know your name or anything, but your license plate would make for a nice unique identifier, like a browser cookie holding a UUID.

      When you're driving down the highway these dynamic billboards can then adjust the advertisment to fit whatever "average" ad best fits the group of cars who have the billboard in view.

      With enough cameras installed around a city, and a little fancy tag recognition + OCR technology, I don't see what's to stop them from being able to do this now.
      • The technology for this is already in place in central London, UK. The centre of London is now a "Congestion Charge []" zone, which means you have to pay a toll if you want to drive there. Cameras snapshot your license plate as you enter and leave the zone, and if you haven't pre-payed, you get a bill in the post.
      • Well thanks for giving them the idea, ya bastard. Go patent it so a) they can't do it, or b) you at least get rich :)
      • Why stop there? Why not OCR the whole car and match the scan with a database of cars.
        For example: You are driving a Ford; display GM ads.

        Maybe not possible yet but as long as it's possible to make money on it it soon will be.

      • How long do you think it'll be before they OCR your license plate using cameras spread around town, track where you go, where you park, and then advertise to you based on your shopping habits?

        I have three words for you...

        big porn billboard

  • Ooh! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @02:15AM (#8845132)
    Do ya think causes accidents?
  • I've been waiting over two years for someone to hack the digital bb here in the Bay Area on the 101..

    I think its all hardwired, need to social engineer your way into that one.
  • I can't wait to see a big billboard with the message "0\/\/N3d by c0D3c!" on a background of the playboy centerfold of Pam Anderson, during rush hour.

    Makes one wonder how tight the security will be after that! :)
  • due to stupid blinking ad on stupid electronic sign.

    I think that there, perhaps, should be a strict limit on how many different types of distractions a driver can be legally exposed to before it is no longer their fault when they crash. This could be a sort of self solving problem, whereby advertisers will not advertise in high accident locations due to legislation saying that they are in fact responsible for the accidents in said locations.

    I also happen to agree very strongly with the school of thought

    • That's right - solve the problem with legislation. Hey, it fixed the spam problem, didn't it? Music piracy - fixed through the DMCA.

      No - the only thing that'll sideline something like this will be vandalism.

      Also, the last time I went down 880 near Hayward, I recall seeing one of these things. Wasn't distracting to me at all - perhaps because I was paying attention to what I was supposed to be doing: driving.

      Point is - people should be paying attention to the road. Those that are distracted enough by
      • That's right - solve the problem with legislation.

        Actually, isn't it illegal to watch TV or videos when you're driving your car already, in most states?

        Why is this any different? Slashdot lawyers: Start your rants!

  • Just think of the we can play tetris across the entire globe for all to see!
    • Not to mention what someone with a silenced pistol can do to a bunch of signs...or a pair of wire cutters.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Just think of the we can play tetris across the entire globe for all to see!

      That is your hacker's dream? Christ, you might as well have said Atari's 'Tank' instead of Tetris. Me, I dream of a game of Pong on such devices. Everyone who has mastered intergalactic space travel, please raise your hand.
  • I wonder how long before someone with lots of time on their hands hacks into the system and starts tampering with the messages.

    I hate clear channel. They have killed radio as a venue for listening for music. Maybe radio was going downhill before Clearchannel and before Clearchannel all the radio stations really did sound exactly the same; all top40 clones of each other, but Clearchannel lets me put a name on my hatred of radio as it stands today. Long live Clearchannel.

    I wonder how long it takes for som

    • Why climb, when paintball guns are available at WalMart and other handy stores?? Gives a whole new meaning to calling "Shotgun!!" Just lay a few paintballs on the display as you drive by...
  • I know its Clearchannel that is behind this, and that they are evil. However, digital billboards can save a lot of costs after as taking down and putting up new billboards. And it certainly gives room for more options, such as video, which may or may not be a bad thing depending on how distracted you and everybody else gets.

  • They would do this []

  • My new.. (Score:3, Funny)

    by msimm ( 580077 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @02:30AM (#8845193) Homepage
    wide screen TV! And to think in the eighties I thought it was cool to steal strobing roadside lights!

    Cheap digital picture frames! Whoot!

  • News... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by NEOtaku17 ( 679902 )
    I take it no one here has ever been to Japan?(Specifically Tokyo witch is cluttered with the things)
  • Can't move (Score:2, Interesting)

    by uspsguy ( 541171 )
    It will be interesting to see how they handle the whole idea. A lot of jurisdictions around here simply do not allow flashing or moving signs. I sure wouldn't want some movie distracting me at 80 on the freeway.
  • by tormentae agent ( 763372 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @03:23AM (#8845411)
    In unveiling its new strategy, Clear Channel named long-time digital media strategist Michael Hudes as executive vice president of corporate development.

    in other news, I name myself Lord of the Realm, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India.

  • In France... (Score:5, Informative)

    by dargaud ( 518470 ) <(slashdot2) (at) (> on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @04:21AM (#8845618) Homepage
    I recently came back to France and noticed that the country side drives seemed a lot... cleaner. It took me a while to figure out that there were no more billboard signs. Upon inquiry I learnt that they are now illegal outside of city boundaries. Very nice.
    • Billboards are also illegal in Vermont. It is so much nicer...
      • Also in Hawaii. After a while you just get used to being able to see waterfalls and the ocean and mountains and stuff, and kinda forget that other places have billboards blocking "the view."
    • Unless it was changed since I was last over there, they're present by the ton in towns, though. And, back then, stupid numbers of flyposters trying to get you to go to Minitel porn sites (hmm, don't want to imagine how that worked) - presumably now net sites instead?

      Swings and roundabouts IMHO. A prettier countryside in compensation for towns (where I actually spend my time...) where I want blinkers.

      Oh, OT, can someone go round and paint all the old villages? There's tons that look like they haven't had a
    • Re:In France... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sploxx ( 622853 )
      Here in germany it's the same, there are no billboards out of cities, but I don't know if it is required by law.

      I always ask myself if so much advertising, if unrestricted advertising is really productive. If it does something good to the economy as a whole. If it would not be better to restrict advertisements to a certain level(?)

      It seems to me that today's advertisements do not inform about new products but instead are just there because if a company does not advertise, all other companies will advertis
  • by chongo ( 113839 ) * on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @05:15AM (#8845862) Homepage Journal
    My concern with the digital billboards that I have seen is they add to the light pollution [] of the nighttime sky []. In the silicon valley we have two on 101 (Redwood City and Santa Clara) that spew photons across the spectrum at a glaring rate.

    If ClearChannel is going to insist pushing these digital billboards with "time of day" related messages, then I hope they will turn down the brightness of their billboards at night as well.

  • There's at least one of these in Cincinnati, and I think it's downright dangerous. Not content with a little motion and several ads, they programmed it to do these bizarre tear-away transitions between the ads. I've already seen a bunch of near-accidents when the ads changed.
  • One would think that it has some manner of RGB/DVI input cable going to it - maybe even S-Video or RCA.

    One could (if they didn't mind losing a little cash on it, but still worth the job) run a cheap eMachines or Wal-Mart PC up (or a P1 that you can't run as a NetBSD firewall), then run that with a slideshow program to produce whatever images and advertising you wanted.

    Of course, that would promptly make the guards on these things probably electrify the poles, so if you do this (go for it, in my opinion; t
  • ...before such a sign is the cause of accidents because they distract the drivers.

Fear is the greatest salesman. -- Robert Klein