Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Pop Culture Supreme Court Ruling 2

Pop Culture Supreme Court Ruling 2: In the current media environment, are radio personalities being held to a different and tougher standard than their peers in print and on television?

Radio is an interesting media, almost more diverse than television it informs and entertains with interactivity that television does not and cannot have. Radio has gotten a lot of attention in the last few months thanks to the FCC & others charging some pretty high-profile shock jocks of obscene show content.

The overly hyped Opie & Anthony were fired from WAAF Boston for reporting that a local politician had died in a fiery car crash. The story was fictitious, an April Fools bit gone bad, but the FCC prohibits the broadcast of knowingly false information if it causes public harm and apparently many believed this story. Who does that? Who believes the word of two stupid shock jocks over respected news outlets? How do these same people handle watching programs such as The Daily Show or reading The Onion? I suppose these people think that James Gandolfini Shot By Closure-Seeking Fan or that The Federal governments has three branches, that Dick Cheney is the fourth.

Seth at Dispatches From the Intelligentsia has this to say about the responsibilities of the FCC “When the FCC was originally created, its job was to make sure radio and TV stations didn't overlap and squelch each other. It has grown into a dangerous anti-free speech arm of the government that arbitrarily determines what we should all hear and see.” And he’s right; if we give up some of our freedoms who’s to stop them from taking more?

The highest profile of the obscenity cases involved Don Imus. On April 4, 2007, Imus referred on-air to the Rutgers University women's basketball team as "nappy-headed ho's"during a discussion about the NCAA Women's Basketball Championship. Calls for his dismissal from an angry public started pouring in that day, the media jumped on the bandwagon shortly after and finally reached it’s apex of attention on April 9th when Imus appeared on activist Al Sharpton’s radio program to discuss the controversy. Sharpton called the comments "abominable", "racist", and "sexist" and called for Imus’ termination. Despite an apology Imus was suspended on April 10th and his show was taken off the air on April 11th.

I think most of us can agree that what he said was indecorous but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have the right to express himself freely. Former Vice President Hubert Humphrey put it best when he said, “The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously.” And that’s what we have here; one man expressing his opinion. says “as a country, we are losing the will to fight for our freedom of speech; to have the right to hear the “words” we want to hear.” He also goes on to say we are “…sliding into an era that the opinions and sensitivities of a few dictate what “words” the rest of us can choose to hear.” and this is definitely true of the Imus incident. But aside from the freedom of speech issue here is the hypocrisy that once again TV gets away with identical behavior, sometimes worse.

Jennifer Feng finds that Hollywood does nothing but perpetuate the Asian stereotypes of the Foreigner and the Geek which diminishes “the self-esteem of boys and introduces an internalized racial self-hatred where one associates one’s racial identity with limited personal and social success.”
Anastasia Goodstein says racism abounds on reality television and is a true thermometer of the racism in society. “It started years ago with The Real World, where racial tension seemed to be a prerequisite for casting. And in the past year we saw Survivor attempt to divide its teams according to race and Ice Cube attempt to have black and white families swap identities in Black. White. There is the unnerving minstrel quality to Flavor of Love, and we even see mixed race couples on Wife Swap.” If these racially charged television shows had been on radio would they have been received so calmly? Could they have even discussed some of the same topics as openly as they could on TV?

I can’t listen to the radio…and I am a talk radio junkie…for more than an hour these days without one of the hosts trying to skirt around a semi-adult topic because of the FCC or fear of audience lash back. Lou Guzzo thinks that “With regard to the obscenity issue, the FCC’s overly stringent regulations violate a historic constitutional doctrine — one stating that laws should be applied fairly and uniformly to all. If a federal agency tried to regulate newspapers, magazines, and books, as the FCC has controlled radio and television, the print media would have scuttled it in a day.”

“If in other lands the press and books and literature of all kinds are censored, we must redouble our efforts here to keep them free.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

Do we really live in this kind of an Orwellian society? If so how long till TV or music or print media is censored because some people don’t like what it has to say…or the government doesn’t like what it has to say. I pointed out a few extreme instances of radio censure but it happens all the time now and it’s just not right. If you don’t like something…change the channel.

"All censorships exist to prevent anyone from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently, the first condition of progress is the removal of all censorships.” George Bernard Shaw

To find out what my fellow Pop Culture Supreme Court has to say on the topic please visit their blogs.

  • MC (Chief Justice)

  • Jess

  • SamuraiFrog

  • Jim

  • Heidi

  • Nikki

  • Jeremy

  • Semaj

  • or visit the main site here
  • The Pop Culture Supreme Court
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