Legislation banning cell phone use, introduced Aug. 15 at New York's City Hall by Councilman Phil Reed, has gained support from Actors' Equity Association.
At a Sept. 24 hearing on the bill, Backstage reports that Carol Waaser — the eastern regional director for Actors' Equity — testified in favor of the controversial bill, which would make cell phone use illegal "any place where members of the public assemble to witness cultural, recreational or educational activities." Such places include movie theatres, concert halls, libraries, museums and live theatre.
About the aforementioned hearing, Waaser told the industry paper, "I, along with other witnesses, spoke in favor of the ban but cautioned that enforcement would be difficult and could cause more of a disturbance than the original offense." Others who spoke in favor of the ban at the hearing included the League of American Theatres and Producers' Barbara Janowitz, the National Association of Theatre Owners' Robert Sunshine and the Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers' George Elmer.
Councilman Reed added, "A lot of people — most people, a majority of people — want to obey the law. It's like the penal code, the health code — there's no smoking in a restaurant, people don't do it. But right now, turning off a cell phone is a request; it's not a law. If it's helpful to the management of the theatre, that's a good thing — it's empowering to be able to say, 'You're violating the law, it's against the law to talk on the phone, turn it off.' And if you have somebody who's going to continue to talk and talk and talk, the management can insist they stop. They can say, 'I'm going to get a police officer.'"
The Consumer Affairs Committee — headed by Reed — will hold another public hearing about the cell phone legislation on Oct. 21 at 1 PM at New York's Cit Hall. —By Andrew Gans