Senate Committee Approves 911 Audiotape Restrictions

by scrosby on February 5, 2009

From Kentucky Public Radio’s Tony McVeigh

Public access to emergency 911 audiotapes would be severely restricted under a Senate bill moving in the Kentucky General Assembly.

Republican Senator John Schickel of northern Kentucky believes radio and television stations often use 911 tapes to sensationalize coverage of tragic events. His bill would prevent release of the actual tapes, but allow transcripts.

“Too often, we hear victims of violent crime and other tragic circumstances being aired on our national and local media, furthering adding to their victimization,” saus Schickel.

But Schickel’s bill is drawing fire from the Kentucky Broadcasters Association and the Kentucky Press Association, who argue it infringes on constitutional protections of a free press.

Lexington television anchor Nancy Cox was among media representatives speaking out against a bill restricting public access to emergency 911 calls in Kentucky.

“A free press is not always convenient. A free press is not always comfortable. But it is always necessary in a democracy,” says Cox, of WLEX-TV. “I understand the good intentions behind this bill. I don’t argue with that at all. But I need you to know that we in the media have good intentions as well, by and large.”

Despite the opposition, the bill cleared the Senate Judiciary committee 6-0 and moves to the Senate floor.

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