B’cast Battles Recording Proposal

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Broadcasters are fighting proposed regulations that would require them to retain recordings of their programs for a minimum of 60 days.

As part of the crackdown on broadcast indecency since Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl bare-breast display, the Federal Communications Commission is considering the new recording-retention requirement.

It would cover all radio and TV broadcasts between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., the 16-hour period when indecent rules apply for the protection of children.


The FCC is considering a duration period of either 60 or 90 days. It would not apply to cable operators or programmers, which are exempt from FCC indecency rules.

Both television and radio broadcasters have flooded the FCC with their objections, arguing mainly that the proposal would capture hundreds of licensees that have no history of indecency violations.

Broadcasters have raised other objections. Religious broadcasters and classical-music radio stations have filed comments which state a recording mandate would be inappropriate because their formats would never be considered indecent.

Some stations have objected to the costs. Gary L. Kneisley, president of Elyria-Lorain Broadcasting Co., said his five radio stations in Northern Ohio would have to spend $45,000 in the first year and $23,750 each year thereafter to comply.

“We feel the personnel and financial burden [of] requiring stations to record and retain all program material broadcast between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. appear[s] to be an attempt to kill an ant with an atom bomb,” Kneisley told the FCC.

The FCC sought comment on the impact on small broadcasters, but the agency did not propose any exemptions, based either on company size or format.


Several organizations in favor of campaign-finance reform have voiced support for the proposal, including the Campaign Legal Center, which is headed by Trevor Potter, a former member of the Federal Election Commission.

The CLC — joined by the Benton Foundation and the Alliance for Better Campaigns — said the retention requirement would assist scholars and activists in their effort to learn whether broadcasters are fulfilling their public interests requirements.

“As it stands now, only media researchers with extensive resources can afford to capture and analyze local programming on a systematic basis, the CLC letter said.