An oldies country music radio station serving a rural Arizona area that aired a public service announcement for two years telling people how to hide potential evidence in child pornography cases has stopped doing so after advertisers received threats, the station's owner said Wednesday.
KAVV-FM owner Paul Lotsof said in an interview that he does not like child pornography but created the announcement because he thinks Arizona's 10-year minimum sentence for each image of child porn is too harsh and costly for taxpayers.
"Nobody put me up to it, and nobody paid," he said. "My feeling is that these people don't deserve life in prison just because they have pictures of naked juveniles."
But recent public comment about the announcement was "99.9 percent" negative and some radio station advertisers received threats, he said. The signal of the radio station from the small southeastern Arizona city of Benson beams across a wide area that stretches toward the Mexico border. It goes by CAVE 97.7 FM.
The announcement described Arizona's tough penalties for possession of child pornography and then provided advice on how to avoid convictions.
It said: "If you have such material, you can save yourselves and your family a ton of grief and save the taxpayers a lot of money by never storing such pictures on the hard drive of your computer. Always use an external drive and hide it where nobody will ever find it. Likewise, never keep paper pictures, tapes or films of naked juveniles where anybody else can find them."
The announcement drew the attention of local law enforcement officials, with Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannells calling it "disgusting and unacceptable" and encouraging "evil behavior."
But Cochise County Attorney Brian McIntyre said it was protected by the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment safeguarding free speech.
"This individual just happens to have a platform that maybe others don't and is advocating beliefs that are personally repugnant to me," McIntyre said.
The Federal Communications Commission, which regulates U.S. public airwaves, received a handful of complaints about the announcement, said spokesman Will Wiquist.
U.S. radio stations are required to air public service announcements in the interest of community service. The commission does not impose requirements or restrictions on the announcements' content, said commission spokeswoman Janice Wise.
"It's up to the station to determine their (community's) public interest," she said.
In an editorial apparently posted online on Thursday, Lotsoff defended his actions and said he was actually "delighted with the exposure" that the controversy has elicited. "If nothing else it has really put tiny Benson on the map even though our city officials probably don’t appreciate any of this," he wrote.
He later blasts his "moralist" critics, labeling them "nothing but mobsters and raving hypocrites."