Abolish The FCC

Here’s another column from 2004 that was rejected by The New York Times Op-Ed page. Censorship is one of my big interests and nothing annoys me more than when misguided organizations, who don’t follow everyone’s right to free speech, push wimpy government regulators to fine equally wimpy broadcasters for content that never comes remotely close to being offensive.

No one in the entertainment business has suffered more from the wrath of the foolish than Howard Stern, who I defend here much like I did in my previous posting, What Is Indecent. I’ve been a supporter of his for a long time and will never understand why he continually gets raked over the coals for simply doing great radio. It’s one thing to find him unfunny or too over-the-top or even hypocritical. (One could certainly make the case for those last two things.) It’s quite another to make it incredibly difficult for him to do his job by unconstitutional means. I mean can you blame him for switching to satellite?

Expect more free-speech columns in the future as well as some archival material.

ABOLISH THE FCC
By Dennis Earl

HAMILTON, Ontario – In 2000 and 2001, there were roughly less than 800 complaints filed with the Federal Communications Commission over so-called objectionable programming. In 2002, that number shot up to approximately 14,000. In 2003, if controversial FCC chairman Michael Powell is to be believed, there were over 240,000. As of late November 2004, the FCC received 1,068,767 complaints according to their guesswork. That’s an astounding figure. Are American media watchers and listeners more outraged today than they were some 3 years ago?

Hardly. According to a revealing article in Mediaweek Magazine, virtually all the complaints came from one source: the Parents Television Council. It is because of this organization’s corruption of the complaints process that the FCC should die. All it is doing is pursing an agenda that the vast majority of Americans, if they paid attention, would not support. The fact that the FCC continues to go along with this nonsense makes it increasingly irrelevant. It’s just a governmental extension of the PTC now.

I never understood why individuals or organizations waste their time criticizing programs on the grounds of bad taste, when it is such an impractical approach. Considering the immense problem of media misinformation, why aren’t there more complaints to the FCC about shoddy journalism, partisan slander and libel?

Regarding the PTC, why do all forms of entertainment have to be family-friendly in order to be deemed acceptable? Why does everything have to be sanitized for our own protection? And why does the FCC listen to this organization seriously when they have no case?

Take Howard Stern, for instance. This may come as a shock to the clueless fools in both the PTC and the FCC but not everyone believes his brand of comedy is obscene. I’m one of those people. I’ve been a fan for over a decade now and don’t understand why hardcore conservative activists and government regulators are more concerned with controlling what all of us listen to and watch instead of protecting the eyes and ears of their own kids. The PTC’s idea of good parenting is to treat us all like children who can’t enjoy any programming on radio and television without their explicit approval. That’s not democracy, that’s fascism.

As for the FCC, why do they fine broadcasters for programming that a vast majority of Americans do not find obscene? What happened to the concept of the community standard, sanctioned by the Supreme Court?

On the PTC website, there’s a link celebrating Stern’s recent announcement that he’s leaving FM radio to risk his career with the unproven satellite market. PTC Executive Director Tim Winter claims in an online posting that it’s a victory for decency that Stern is leaving Infinity Broadcasting. But considering that no two people can agree 100% on what’s indecent or not, how is this a good thing? He claims that “[t]he real victors are the millions and millions of American families who will no longer be subjected to Stern’s pornographic ranting during their morning drive time.”

Really? All of these allegedly offended families had guns pointed at their collective noggins by people who said, “You must listen to the Howard Stern Show or die!”? Give me a break. Why would anyone listen to a show they don’t appreciate instead of tuning into one they would enjoy? There’s a reason you have a radio dial, people. Use it. Find a show you feel is appropriate for your family and leave Howard Stern and all the other broadcasters you can’t stand alone. None of them deserve the ridiculously exorbitant fines your partner in crime, the FCC, levelled against them. Oh, that’s right. We can’t have our own preferences that differ from yours because your children are listening. But who let them listen in the first place?  

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, February 25, 2006
11:27 p.m. 

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Published in: on February 26, 2006 at 12:35 am  Leave a Comment  

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