CALIFORNIA–It would not be feasible for Los Angeles County to install electronic media equipment and charge broadcasters for covering high-profile trials, according to a county task force’s final report released in early May.
In response to the mounting costs of the O.J. Simpson double- murder trial, Los Angeles County supervisors formed the Task Force on Broadcasting of Court Proceedings in late February to study the “feasibility and advisability” of installing the equipment and charging broadcasters user fees.
The task force estimated installation costs would top $500,000 per courtroom for audio and video equipment, and could exceed $6 million countywide. “The high installation costs and the unpredictability of the demand for its use make the likelihood of full cost recovery, at best, speculative,” the report states.
However, the panel supported charging fees for the media’s use of county building space beyond the standard press rooms.
The task force meetings included representatives of the County Counsel, Internal Services, Municipal and Superior Courts, Public Defender, Sheriff and the Chief Administrative Office. The Radio- Television News Association and the District Attorney declined to serve as members of the task force.
The task force focused only on future trials. However, the county board of supervisors also approved a motion in late February to charge broadcasters for part of the costs of the Simpson trial. In mid- March, Superior Court Judge Lance Ito rejected the plan, saying California Rule 980 does not allow the court to impose access fees upon the news media.
The board of supervisors now has moved its focus to the California legislature where a bill, introduced by state Assembly Member Paula Boland (R-Granada Hills), is pending which would allow the county or city to charge broadcasters for coverage of expensive trials. The bill would allow a city or county to contract with private broadcasters for the right to televise court proceedings in cases where the court costs are projected to exceed $500,000. (California AB 1733)
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