USC Annenberg Media Resources

Recording phone interviews

Recording telephone conversations

Radio news often uses use snippets of interviews recorded by telephone.  Or, you might want to record a telephone interview for print or online in lieu of taking detailed notes. Even TV news sometimes uses recorded phone interviews.

It is important to know there are federal and state laws which govern recording phone conversations. They also govern in-person private conversations that take place in public places.  Always remember to learn the law in whatever state you are working in.  

California has what is known as a “two-party consent” law.  That means it’s illegal to record any telephone call or private conversation without the consent of all parties involved.  

In a phone conversation, do not assume the interviewee knows you are recording because you say it’s for radio or TV.  You must make it clear you will record the conversation and you must receive their consent.

Here’s how you can handle it:

When you first call to arrange the interview, let the contact know you want to record an interview over the telephone.  When you begin recording, say something like, “I want to confirm with you that I will be recording this interview.”  Make sure they give some kind of assent.   That way if there is any question later as to whether they were informed, you have the recorded verification.

For more information on the California law:

http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/california-recording-law

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