Owner Relents, Pulls Porn PSA. Was It The Right Thing To Do?

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Yesterday we reported on KAVV’s owner Paul Lotsof who decided he was going to use radio station to advance his personal agenda. He did not agree with a law on the books in Arizona and he ran PSAs saying so. After the PSA was posted to Facebook this week, the community backlash was instant (It’s important to note that Lotsoff had been airing the PSA’s in the early morning hours for the past two years).

Lotsoff is not a fan of child pornography. He believes a 10-year minimum sentence for each image of child is too harsh and costly for taxpayers. He has pulled the PSAs from the station. For more advice and opinion on this unusual situation in Arizona, we turned to Broadcast Attorney John Garziglia for his opinion.

(By John Garziglia)
Every so often, broadcasters are reminded how precious is the First Amendment. KAVV(FM) is a radio station known as “The Cave” licensed to Benson, Arizona, The owner of The Cave, Paul Lotsof, likes to give his opinions on the air. KAVV’s website has a link to several Cave editorials. The Cave does not just speak but also listens and reports on what its listeners have to say.

One of the Cave’s opinions is that state and federal laws on child pornography need to be changed. Indeed, Paul is not alone in this viewpoint. Professor Jonathan Turley reports on criminal prosecutions of parents for naked baby bathtub photos and family photos of a mother breastfeeding. A Utah couple were criminally charged for photos of a father kissing his naked baby.

So what is it about the broadcasts on the Cave that has the radio station under Arizona criminal investigation? It is a public service announcement (PSA) warning listeners to “Never keep paper pictures, tapes or films of naked juveniles where anyone else can find them.” Paul Lostof is quoted as being unable to “figure out why [his PSA] is such a big deal”.

The local sheriff is quoted that the PSA is “disgusting and unacceptable … and this type of propaganda encourages evil behavior”. Well, there appears the answer. It just appears that the Cave may be correct in warning its listening audience that there is a local sheriff who might be coming to lock up parents for naked baby photos.

But whether parents should be locked up as felons for naked baby photos is a subject to be debated by Mr. Lostof, the Cave, the local sheriff and others in Arizona and elsewhere, not here. Rather, for this article, it is simply worth observing that if only more radio stations had the courage and gumption to vigorously participate in civic discussions on often unpopular or disparaged points of view, we might not have to remind governmental officials of the First Amendment so often.

Can the Cave be challenged at license renewal time for broadcasting its opinion programs. You betcha! Unlike newspapers, broadcast stations need a government license to continue to broadcast. Will the FCC ultimately take any adverse action against the KAVV license? Not if the First Amendment precepts currently in place remain. Is the KAVV licensee sticking its neck out by broadcasting opinion pieces on contentious issues? Yes, and kudos to it for doing so.

Demonizing contentious civic issues and threatening criminal actions against those advocating changes in the law is a pernicious governmental response by those who wish to maintain the status quo, a status quo which often benefits only those in power administering the debated law, and at its root chills any public discussions. Especially chilling is the sheriff’s statement that his office will “continue to seek legal advice on actions that can be taken for the content [the opinion] that has already been released and to ensure that this kind of information [the opinion] is not released again”.

John Garziglia - RadioYes, chilling. Highly chilling. Thank you KAVV for having the courage to state your point of view, and thank goodness for our First Amendment.

John F. Garziglia is a Communications Law Attorney with Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice in Washington, DC and can be reached at (202) 857-4455. or [email protected]

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Rules #1 of radio. DON’T use it as a personal PA system. Does this “PSA” truly serve your community? I should hope not.

  2. Notice nobody seems to care about who decides what is best for us? governmental overreach is a serious issue whether it is the government deciding whether every parent who has taken of picture of their child naked are dangerous felons who must be jailed or what is allowed to be said in public debates. Only government approved arguments can be allowed. I am far more worried about who gets to decide what is said than over who is allowed to charge how much for the speed that debate can travel along the internet. Democrats controlling what I can say (remember the famous equal opportunity rules that effectively prevented all on air debate?) are not a lot better than Republicans telling me what can be said even if it is in the name of morality. freedom means we must be willing to allow even objectionable speech…because when the government decides what IS objectionable there is NO freedom.

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