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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3 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.

  3. This is a disturbing story, but not for the distracting reasons Radio Ink is trying to get us to look at. The publication’s bias is well on show. Let’s break this down.

    1. No mention of the fact that the FCC site was inundated with legitimate comments etc. as well. Did you do your homework? I did.
    2. Why do you think people chose to blitz the site? Maybe because this joker wants to take the Internet from us and hand it to his old buddies in the Telecom industry.
    3. I am in a position to know and Pai is taking kickbacks for this dirty work. But anyone who knows anything about the corporate-DC revolving door won’t be shocked by this.
    4. It’s a disgrace in itself that Pai calls his filing “Restoring Internet Freedom” — an old DC trick. Mask something horrible in the garb of democracy. The government isn’t “controlling” the Internet as the nauseating Beacon story, apparently written by some ambitious intern, says. It is protecting it from private interests that will make you and me pay through the teeth if we want our sites to run at the speed of the big companies. Otherwise, we’re in the slow lane. It’s a direct attack on grassroots democracy. The Internet is the level playing field where everyone can have a site and a say without being penalized for not having wealth. If you’re against Net Neutrality, you’re essentially voting against yourself and your interests.
    5. Racism and threats are not good, not at all. But you know as well as we do, that’s NOT the major story here. Pathetic journalism by Radio Ink and the Beacon intern. The fact that such language is part of the discourse, and that the site was flooded by any means available, should tell you that a hell of a lot of people are seriously, and rightfully pissed off about this. It is one of the major issues of our time. What’s bigger and more important than the Internet these days? (And the carriers see the dollars in big piles — and you’re helping their cause.)
    6. Are you seriously contending that poor-taste comments are a bigger issue than the corporate nonsense and commercial violence the American people have long been subject to? An anthill to a pyramid.
    7. Isn’t true journalism supposed to be objective and weigh opposing arguments? It was when I was in Journalism school.
    8. Radio Ink has taken a position in this piece. Blowing the lid off the “vulgarity” story. Wow! Let me tell you what’s vulgar: Letting big telecom corporations steal the Internet (Pai used to be a honcho at Verizon. Did you ever mention that? Let me answer that: No. Not in any of your recent stories on him. Not one.) It’s vulgar that the poor are getting poorer, and the rich are getting richer. It’s vulgar that our greatest instrument of true democracy — the Internet — is, essentially, being privatized, like every other thing in this country. How’s the health care system workin’ out for you?
    9. Pai was appointed by Trump. Are you really too stupid to comprehend that that in itself is intrinsically problematic? We have a nut case in the White House. A nut case who is desperately insecure and impossibly dumb and has the nuclear codes. So yeah, I’m sure his choices are unbiased and rational. We’ve seen plenty of that from Trump, right?

    That Radio Ink mentioned the soap opera side of a very serious issue, and didn’t give any indication why it may have been happening, is just yellow journalism, pure and simple. Radio has it in their heads that Pai is good for the industry. No doubt he’s been on the phone to the CEOs of iHeart, Cumulus etc. But for the vast majority of folks in radio, losing Net Neutrality would be a disaster.

    Be careful what you wish for.

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