Most radio listeners who hear a public service announcement about child pornography would expect it to focus on fighting crime and stopping abuse. But for at least two years, the audience of an Arizona radio station instead heard tips on avoiding prosecution over possessing photos of "naked juveniles."
After a public outcry that included a local TV report that drew the notice of the local sheriff — and reportedly drew the ire of advertisers — the station dubbed Cave 97.7 has now ceased airing the PSA that was recorded by Paul Lotsof, the self-declared CAVEMANager of the country music station.
"In many cases, the penalty for possession of pictures is worse than the penalty for murder," Lotsof stated in the PSA. "You should understand that your Internet provider could report you to the police if they catch you looking at a website featuring naked juveniles. The police then enter your house and seize your computer."
Lotsof offered practical advice, telling anyone possessing such material how they could "save yourselves and your family a ton of grief, and save the taxpayers of Arizona a lot of money" — not by refusing to take part in an illegal enterprise, but by avoiding being caught doing so.
In interviews with the media, Lotsof has said he's against Arizona's law that punishes those who possess child pornography with a minimum of 10 years in prison for each violation.
"There's no picture in the world that's that dangerous," Lotsof said, according to a report by local TV news station KVOA earlier this week.
Within a day of that TV report airing, public outrage poured forth over the PSA — and the local sheriff said the PSA "has now been taken off of the air."
The decision was prompted by threats to Lotsof's advertisers, the AP reports.
The station, with the call letters KAVV, broadcasts in an area that includes Benson, east of Tucson. On its website, the station says it has a policy of airing one public service announcement each hour. And for around two years, local officials say, the station broadcast Lotsof's message about hiding child pornography.
Cochise County Attorney Brian McIntyre told The Associated Press that the announcement was protected under the First Amendment. "This individual just happens to have a platform that maybe others don't and is advocating beliefs that are personally repugnant to me," McIntyre told the news service.
Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels said he found it "very disturbing to know that a member of our local media, who should be one of the responsible groups of people to provide factual information to our public to keep them safe, is promoting and encouraging criminal behavior."
"This is a disgusting and unacceptable public service announcement and this type of propaganda encourages evil behavior," Dannels said.
Replying to the sheriff's message on Facebook, one woman who lives in the area wrote that she'd heard the messages for three years, not just two. She went on to say, " it was every night about the same time, a couple times a night, at least on the nights I worked."
The woman concluded, "I thought it was completely inappropriate then but didn't know how to make them stop. Please do something!"