This Week's Rant - F the FCC!!!

Ever since Janet Jackson flashed her flabby middle-aged breast for less than a second last February, the fine folks governing our nation have pledged to decide just what you and I can hear or see on the public airwaves. Instead of banding together to fix our country’s problems – from rising gas prices to the ever-growing disparity between the upper and lower classes, it’s become their duty to use scare tactics to dumb down all forms of media to the level of a second grader. Hell, even second graders are too advanced for the mindset of these do-gooders.
With a news media more concerned with Michael Jackson’s pajamas and Lindsay Lohan’s hookups with mediocre actions stars old enough to be her grandfather, few noticed that on February 16, the House of Representatives passed the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2005 by a vote of 389 to 38, including a favorable vote by our own Stephanie Herseth. I’ve never been more disappointed in the beautiful Ms. Herseth.
This legislation would impose vastly higher fines – up to $500,000 per incident – on broadcaster who air so-called indecent material.
Now I’m not a person who believes that anything goes at all hours of the day. Although I personally may enjoy some material that others find disgusting, I understand that there should be some limits. But this bill does absolutely nothing to fix the vague standards that the FCC, particularly under former chairman Michael Powell, arbitrarily applied to broadcasters. What was fine for one channel on one day would suddenly be obscene the next on another station. This makes it next to impossible for stations, particularly small broadcasters, to self-censor themselves.
Long before the House even began to ponder this bill stations were running scared. There are incident after incident of seemingly innocuous bits of dialogue or plot points being edited out of prime-time sitcoms or reality shows. At the Academy Awards, much of Chris Rock’s planned opening monologue was taken away from his, as was a satirical song written for Robin Williams that poked fun at the Spongebob Squarepants controversy. An embrace between two lesbian contestants on Survivor was also edited out of the show. Howard Stern, the main target of the FCC, has suddenly had words and sound effects that he has used for close to 30 years suddenly attracting the dump button from his producers. These are incidents from big-time programs that can afford a fine or two. Just imagine how it’s affecting local programming, particularly if this bill becomes law and on-air talent that earn poverty wages are suddenly subject to the same fines.
Why censorship has become a cornerstone of conservative politics is a mystery to me. Even some conservatives agree. Adam Thierer, the director of telecommunications studies at the Cato Institute – a very conservative think tank – recently commented, “censorship on an individual/parental level is a fundamental part of being a good parent. But censorship at a government level is an entirely different matter because it means a small handful of individuals get to decide what the whole nation is permitted to see, hear, or think. I’ve always been particularly troubled by the fact that so many conservatives, who rightly preach the gospel of personal and parental responsibility about most economic issue, seemingly give up on this notion when it comes to cultural issues.”
Carrying on that line of thought, there are a lot of Congressman and Senators who talk about “freedom” and complain about the intrusive role of “government regulators” but wan government regulators to make us a less free society when it comes to the public airwaves. Some, including Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, even wants to go a step further and regulate cable and satellite radio and television. Look, nobody has ever said that we have to like what a person says. God knows I rant about what idiotic people say every week. But I, along with every freedom-loving American, should defend the rights of even our worst enemies to say what they feel is right without worrying about having to declare bankruptcy. Oh yeah, thanks to our elected officials we won’t be able to do that.
The Senate is likely to begin debate on their version of this bill any day now. I urge all “true” Americans to contact their Senators and voice their opinion on this subject. Remember, we all have our form of self-censorship. It’s called the on/off button. If you don’t like what you’re hearing or seeing, shut the damn thing off. If enough of us do this simple task, maybe we can finally get that truly offensive Jim Belushi sitcom off the air.


Anonymous said…
Hi Scott,
I don't usually do this, but after reading your PW bus experience...and also seeing your cool musical taste...I thought I would send you a link to some of my demos. We like so many of the same bands!

Anyway...let me know what you think if you have the time.

Thank you for sharing your Westerberg experience with us.


Popular Posts