Broadcasters Fighting Recording Proposal


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.-10 p.m., the 16-hour period during which indecent rules apply for the protection of children.

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

Broadcasters, both radio and TV, have flooded the commission with their objections, mainly arguing that the proposal would affect 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 stating that 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.-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-interest 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.