Broadcasters Pan Archive Plan


The National Association of Broadcasters has helped to generate hundreds of comments slamming a Federal Communications Commission proposal to require stations to archive their programs.

The proposal would make it easier for listeners and viewers to file indecency complaints with the FCC by requiring stations to keep readily available copies all their programming for a set period of time--the FCC has suggested 60-90 days.

Although a tape of the offending broadcast is not always required to document an alleged offense, the FCC has dismissed some complaints for lack of such evidence. FCC Commissioner Michael Copps has long complained that the documentation requirement puts too heavy a burden on the public and that stations should have to record and make copies of their own programming available.

The vast majority of the commenters, mostly radio stations and many in smaller markets, say the requirement would be prohibitively expensive, unnecessary, and could lead to cutbacks in local programming or to de facto prior restraint.

Many called it a case of "guilty until proven innocent," with some suggesting  the FCC could make the requirement part of a sanction for repeat offenders.

One small-market broadcaster summed it up this way: "This rule is overly broad and unduly burdensome, infringes on the First Amendment rights of broadcasters, may potentially interfere with contractual obligations, may expose broadcasters to copyright infringement liability, and poses a financial administrative burden on broadcasters, especially smaller broadcasters."

Comments are due Aug. 27. The NAB, which put a direct link from its Web site to the FCC comments page and included a form that it will automatically forward a comment, is urging broadcasters to keep those electronic cards and letters coming in, pointing out that the reply comment deadline is not until Sept. 27.