Image caption Cave 97.8 FM invites listeners on its website to submit public service announcements as long as they benefit a non-profit organisation

An online petition has been launched by residents of the town of Benson in the US state of Arizona against a radio station which broadcast advice late at night on how to hide child pornography.

Statements aired by the station over a two-year period gave tips on how to disguise viewing such images.

The petition accuses the station of broadcasting “a sickening message”.

Cave 97.7 FM owner Paul Lotsof has publicly stated he disagrees with Arizona’s laws on child pornography.

He told News 4 Tucson that he had performed a public service by broadcasting the advice, which recently has been taken off air.

The messages urged people “always to use their external drive and hide it where nobody can find it” after watching child pornography online.

“Never keep paper pictures, tapes or films of naked juveniles where anybody else can find them,” the advice states.

Mr Lotsof argues that possession of child pornography should not be a crime.

“The difference is [that in] one case, you’re molesting children and abusing them, causing children to do things that are not natural for children to do, and [in] the other case, they’re just possessing pictures,” he told News 4 Tuscon.

“There’s no connection between those two.”

The petition on accuses Cave of broadcasting “a sickening message about a huge issue that plagues this country”.

“There is no excuse for this and [the station] needs to be shut down,” it states. “We can keep this garbage out of our community.”

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Image caption The petition on accuses the radio station of “crossing a huge line”

The advice was broadcast under the format of a Public Service Announcement (PSA) – a way in which messages in the public interest are disseminated via the media.

Federal Communication Commission officials told News 4 Tucson that there are no rules which clearly articulate what can or cannot be broadcast in relation to PSAs.

The US has a long tradition of upholding the principle of freedom of speech.

But police in Benson say they are investigating whether the station’s PSAs are in breach of the law.

“Freedom of speech does not include telling people to commit crimes and continuing to pass on this information could lead to judicial action being taken,” a police statement said.

“We are now seeking legal advice on actions that can be taken for the content that has already been released and to ensure this kind of information is not released again.”

Arizona has some of the toughest laws in the US on child abuse and exploitation. In 2003 a high school teacher was sentenced to 200 years in prison after he was caught with thousands of images of child abuse on his computer.