Monday, May 04, 2009

News: Senator Debates His Proposed Ban On Airing 9-1-1 Calls Monday at 7 PM

Update: This story finally airs today - Monday, May 4th at 7 PM. Watch the interview below.

Ohio Senator Thomas Patton (R-Strongsville) is working on a bill in the General Assembly in the State of Ohio to ban broadcasters (including radio, television and Internet) from airing 9-1-1 calls.

The bill would allow for the transcriptions of 9-1-1 calls to be read by broadcasters, but the audio portion would not be allowed to be aired under Patton's proposal.

Broadcasters would be fined $10,000 for a violation.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, Patton argues people may not call 9-1-1 to report a crime if they fear their identities could be revealed or identified by their voice.

Patton doesn't feel 9-1-1 calls should be confidential, just not aired.

Of course, Ohio broadcasters fiercely opposed a previous attempt at the legislation and will again, says Christine Merritt, executive vice president of the Ohio Association of Broadcasters tells the Dispatch.

Coming up Monday at 7 pm on Channel 3 News, Senator Patton will join us live in the studio for our "Focus" segment to debate with Channel 3 Anchor Eric Mansfield.

We'll have reaction and post the interview on Monday following its airing here on the Director's Cut Blog.


Anonymous said...

I thought it was up to the FCC, not state officials, to handle this type of thing.

Keith Rocheck said...

Generally, state funds are used provide 911 service (call centers). In Ohio, PUCO coordinates the service through the Ohio 9-1-1 Council and Advisory Board. As a result, it would be within the rights of the State of Ohio to regulate the availability/usage of 9-1-1 calls.

Anonymous said...

What is the purpose of broadcasting a "911" call on a newscast? Is it to "better inform the public", or does it just fill up 30 seconds of airtime--following the deep baritone of an anchorman saying something like "Chilling words from a frantic mother calling 911 for help...". Sorry, but the tabloid nature of TV news (and I do not necessarily mean WKYC...) makes me jaded. If your family suffered a tragedy and your 911 call was broadcasted all over town, how would you feel? Yes, it is part of the public record-- but TV news has gone down the slippery slope too ofter in my opinion (both locally and nationally). I suggest a compromise-- broadcast a 911 call ONLY if you have permission of the person WHO made the call! (and this doesn't have to legislated-- this could be WKYC policy!)


Anonymous said...

The issue is, either something is public knowledge or it isn't. The determination of what information state and local agencies provide to the public is between them and the first amendment lawyers, if it comes to that.

The problem with this situation, as I see it, is an elected state official attempting to regulate what information, already provided to the public, may be electronically broadcast. It is the Federal Communications Commission that regulates what may or may not be broadcast on the PUBLIC'S airwaves.

Most every case I've heard of involving state and/or local officials or agencies trying to control or restrict the use of the airwaves by a legitimately licensed station (and not necessarily a broadcast station) has lost in court if the licensee had the legal resources to fight it.

I'm not arguing about the appropriateness of airing 911 tapes here. I'm arguing that if state and local authorities are allowed to regulate the airwaves or access to them (as in unreasonably restrictive antenna regulations) the situation can be quite chaotic. RF (Radio Frequency) signals do not recognize state, county or municipal boundaries. That's one of the most relevant reasons the FCC, working within international treaty, has been given the authority to oversee and regulate RF communications. Local politicians trying to horn in on that turf, regardless of their motivation, only invites havoc.

Keith Rocheck said...

What is unclear to me is whether or not this bill will no longer put the audio recording into the public record (leaving only transcripts) or if the State is simply saying the tapes can no longer be aired. The two are different situations. The latter being true then the prior poster may have a point.