US radio station condemned for advising how to hide child pornography

Claiming sentences are too stark, the station owner ran his 'public service announcement' for two years

US radio station condemned for advising how to hide child pornography

[Twitter/Zack Briggs]

“In many cases, the penalty for possession of pictures is worse than the penalty for murder,” Paul Lotsof’s voice announced to the listeners to his radio station. “You should understand that your Internet providers could report you to the police if they catch you looking at a website featuring naked juveniles.”

For two years, Lotsof included what he describes as a ‘public service announcement’ during night-time music broadcasts on CAVE 97.7FM, a country and western station he owns and operates in Benson, Arizona.

Lotsof offered detailed advice on how to avoid detection when consuming illegal images, with his recommendations intended to “save yourselves and your family a tonne of grief and save the taxpayers a lot of money.”

Community reaction

Now concerned citizens in Benson, near Tucson, have created a Change.org petition call on the Federal Communications Commission, the US broadcasting regulator, to revoke the channel’s licence. The negative publicity stemming from their work has seen several advertisers threaten to pull their support for CAVE 97.7FM and the local sheriff call it disturbing.

Reacting to the controversy, Lotsof has removed the broadcast from the airwaves, but maintains that the State of Arizona’s penalties for possession of child pornography are too harsh.

“Nobody put me up to it, and nobody paid,” Lotsof told the Associated Press. “My feeling is that these people don’t deserve life in prison just because they have pictures of naked juveniles.”

The station owner further outlined his beliefs in an interview with a local TV station, claiming that the penalties for possession of child pornography in Arizona – among the most severe in the United States – are far too harsh.

In Arizona, state sentencing laws for the sexual exploitation of minors carries a minimum sentence of 10 years per violation.

“The real victims,” Lotsof said, “are the people serving these incredibly long sentences.”

Freedom of speech

While freedom of speech is enshrined in the US constitution thanks to the first amendment, the local sheriff’s office in Benson is now investigating whether Lotsof’s broadcasts breach the law.

“Freedom of speech does not include telling people to commit crimes and continuing to pass on this information could lead to judicial action being taken,” a police statement reads.

“We are now seeking legal advice on actions that can be taken for the content that has already been released and to ensure this kind of information is not released again.”

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