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Sun Sounds to FCC: waive indecency rules for radio reading services

Sun Sounds of ArizonaSun Sounds of Arizona provides audio services for people with reading and sight disabilities, streaming readings of books, newspapers, and magazines over telephone wires, the Internet, and radio. But this last component faces a problem, the company notes in a filing with the Federal Communications Commission:

“[R]adio and TV broadcast stations, which might contract with Sun Sounds or other AIS [Audio Information Services] providers to broadcast the reading of these print materials over either FM subcarrier or HD channels, are reluctant to do so because of the Commission’s present indecency and profanity policies,” Sun Sounds explains.

Sun Sounds operates as a community service of Rio Salado College in Arizona, which is the licensee of noncommercial stations KBAQ-FM and KJZZ-FM. KJZZ carries the service via a subcarrier signal. Several months ago Sun began streaming on the third HD channel of KBAQ.

The operation would like to expand its reach, but here’s the problem:

“Sun Sounds, and most Audio Information Services, read print verbatim, and are unwilling, as a matter of principle, to censor or ‘bleep’ any of the print that is read. To do so would be the functional equivalent, for print-disabled persons, of what would be experienced by sighted persons if they were to encounter blacked-out words, descriptions, or photographs in any of the newspapers or magazines or other material they read.”

Bottom line: “As the Commission reconsiders its policies for indecency enforcement, including the possibility that it will limit enforcement to so-called ‘egregious’ cases (however that term may be defined), Sun Sounds urges that AIS print content should receive the highest level of deference and should be exempted from enforcement actions.”

Since the Supreme Court struck down the FCC’s actions against “fleeting expletives” broadcast over the airwaves, the agency has been seeking comment on an alternative policy. This could come down to punishing only the most “egregious” complaints that come before the Commission, as proposed by NPR.

Sun Sounds’ request is very reasonable, as far as I’m concerned. Think of all the sci-fi, mystery, urban, noir, and comic novels that are packed with ripe words and ripe scenes. Why should Sun Sounds radio collaborators fear broadcasting this worthy content to people with print/reading disabilities during the day? A full exemption for radio reading services makes sense.


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One Response to Sun Sounds to FCC: waive indecency rules for radio reading services

  1. Susan Jenkins July 11, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

    Thanks for this vote of confidence, Matthew. I am one of the lawyers who filed these comments for Sun Sounds of Arizona. Glad you consider our ask reasonable and hope the FCC agrees with your assessment. Should be an interesting proceeding, all in all.

    I have been reading through your more recent posts today. Really good blog. Think I’ll follow you.
    Best, Susan

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