Vice Squad
Saturday, August 28, 2004
Missouri Bans Billboard Ads for Disfavored Businesses

The disfavored stores are those "whose sexually oriented materials comprise 10 percent or more of their display space..." according to this AP story. The ban applies to billboards within one mile of a highway. The ban is being challenged, of course.

Vice Squad recently reviewed, as it were, some basics of US constitutional law with respect to the regulation of commercial speech. Now I am no lawyer, but it looks to me as if this law doesn't stand much of a chance of being upheld. (The article, though, claims that a similar law in New Jersey survived a challenge in state court. I assume that the current Missouri challenge is in federal court.) As described in the linked AP article, the ban is actually independent of the content of the ad -- it is the nature of the business, not the text or images on the billboard, that triggers the ban. The regulation could prevent a convenience store that sells a lot of condoms from advertising its cheap gas prices on billboards. Doesn't this ban shut down a lot of speech that has nothing to do with exposing children to sex?

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