Supreme Court Will Release Recordings of Oral Arguments

The Supreme Court's decision to make audio tapes
of its oral arguments available to the press and public on a weekly basis
sounds like a win for journalists and organizations who have long pushed for
greater access, but it turns out to be a double-edged sword, according to

"Beginning with October Term 2010, the audio
recordings of all oral arguments heard by the Supreme Court of the United
States will be available free to the public on the Court's Web site,,
at the end of each argument week," the courts said Tuesday. "The
audio recordings will be posted on Fridays after Conference."

While the court agreed to make recordings
available each Friday, it is discontinuing its policy of occasionally allowing
same-day release of the tapes, a court spokesperson confirmed. "The Court will
discontinue the occasional practice of expediting the release of audio
recordings prompted by requests from the media and based on the level of public
interest," said Kathleen Arberg, public information officer for the court.

Why? In part, apparently, because it was tough to
determine whether the public's interest in a case was high enough to justify
the same-day release, which was a key factor in granting the requests.
"The new practice will significantly accelerate access in all cases,
provide direct access to the public, and it will eliminate the difficult task
of assessing the public's interest," she said.

"While we applaud The Court's new policy, which
helps advance the cause of greater public access to the institution, we do
regret that it comes at the expense of occasional same-day release of arguments
in cases with heightened public interest," said C-SPAN President Susan
Swain in a statement. "Reporting on these key cases will be out for several
days before the public is able to hear the arguments for themselves, in the
Justices' own words."

All arguments are scheduled for Monday-Wednesday.

C-SPAN will continue to push for same-day release
of recordings and TV coverage of arguments.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.