stelprdb5334033The Massachusetts Broadcasters Association joined with many other State Broadcasters Associations in expressing concern that certain aspects of the US Forest Service’s current and proposed permitting process violate the First Amendment by imposing a “prior restraint” on the freedom of speech and freedom of the press that are guaranteed by the United States Constitution.

At the current time, broadcasters are exempt from the Forest Service’s permitting process if they are on Forest Service land covering “breaking news.”  “Breaking News” is defined as “An event or incident that arises suddenly, evolves quickly, and rapidly ceases to be newsworthy.”   We argued that the only way for the Forest Service to avoid the prohibition against “prior restraints,” would be for the Forest Service to reject its unreasonably narrow definition of news.  In support, we cited to a letter filed by the Idaho State Broadcasters Association that makes two salient points with respect to the Forest Service’s definition of “breaking news,” “[c]overage of a forest fire in Idaho would be exempt from filming restrictions while it is burning, but a story about the aftermath of that fire might not be.” Furthermore, the Forest Service’s “limited definition [of news] does not take into account the varied nature of news coverage including feature stories, sports, documentaries, on-line material and other programming that is produced over a longer period of time.”  Accordingly, we urged the Forest Service to broaden the broadcaster exemption from the permitting process to include all newsgathering and dissemination activities of broadcasters.

Read the Forest Service Letter here.