American Broadcasters, Grow Some Balls

Howard Stern is back in the news thanks to a recent lawsuit filed against him by CBS Radio (AKA Infinity Broadcasting).  That’s the company that longtime supporter Mel Karmazin helped build from the ground up by hiring Stern to do his morning show in 1985.  (Before being saved by Mel, he had just been fired by WNBC despite being number one in the New York morning radio market.) 
21 years later, the company that was once more than happy to have their number one acquisition do whatever he wanted, so long as his antics brought in millions (perhaps, billions) of advertising revenue, is now out to destroy him.  I don’t need to go into the details about why this is probably the prime candidate for the most ridiculous lawsuit of the year.  Do a quick Google search or consult and/or and you’ll discover that many people are in Stern’s corner, including one of his most vocal enemies, Jack Thompson.  They all pretty much cover everything that needs to be said so I would be just repeating their sentiments here and I don’t want to do that.  I support Howard Stern and that’s that.
Instead, I want to show you a rejected New York Times Op-Ed submission from this year.  Entitled American Broadcasters, Grow Some Balls, it’s all about the needless self-censorship that’s happening in American broadcasting.  Before the increasingly desperate CBS Radio launched their legal assault on him, Howard Stern wasn’t getting much broad support from the industry with regards to his battles with the FCC and the religious right.  That’s what inspired this piece. 
Here’s hoping this will mark a turning point for him and that the entertainment business as a whole becomes a lot more aggressive in defending not only itself as an industry but its star talents as well.


By Dennis Earl

They bleeped “penis”! It happened during Martin Bashir’s January 2006 interview with Howard Stern on Nightline. (Howard was talking about the first time he was fined by the FCC. It was in 1987. A guy came into his studio claiming he could play the piano with his member. Someone complained and suddenly, his show was slapped with a $6000 fine.)

Imagine, a proper name for part of the male genitalia and you can’t hear it. Why? Because American broadcasters are the biggest bunch of pussies. That’s why.

Last year, my aunt emailed me a video clip from a now-defunct TV show called Viva Variety where these 2 guys, named the Freakin’ Brothers, play several, short duets on the piano (including Chopsticks) with their penises. The show aired on Comedy Central in the mid-90s and as far as I know, the FCC never fined them.

It’s no wonder Howard Stern gets so pissed off at his industry. He has virtually no support system whatsoever and with the industry itself needlessly scared of a corrupt, Big Brother government agency, things are going to get worse. He did the right thing jumping to Satellite.

All of this reminds me of a regular bit that Jimmy Kimmel does on his late night talk show. Every Friday, he ends his opening monologue by introducing a series of Television clips that, he says, “have been bleeped and blurred whether they need it or not”. It’s called “This Week in Unnecessary Censorship”. The truth behind the joke is this: censoring innocent comments or images makes them seem much more salacious than they really are.

We have reached the point of absurdity when American broadcasters are so worried about being fined and having their licenses revoked that they’ll resort to needless self-censorship that not only hurts itself as a credible source of honest information but also infuriates and insults the intelligence of the home audience. This is, perhaps, the most revealing slice of truth to come out of that FCC parody. That because this corrupt regulatory body is so easily swayed by phony, mass-mailed complaints, it naively believes the industry is dirty and therefore in need of a thorough cleansing. Just once I’d like to see a network or an independent radio station stand up for free speech and take the FCC to court. Just once I’d like to see CBS Radio (formerly Infinity Broadcasting), Howard Stern’s former employer, change its mind about paying all those exorbitant fines he unfairly received and fight them in front of a judge willing to listen and understand just how crazy everything has gotten in America.

Howard has complained many times on the air about how the then-Infinity was being screwed by the FCC who refused to allow them to expand their business without first paying these ridiculous and unconstitutional fines. Over and over, the anger rising in his voice, he would demand his day in court to prove that his program is not obscene.

Sadly, he never got his wish.

And now, despite being free from the tyrannical tentacles of the FCC, people are still coming after him. Namely, the religious right. No one should be in control of what we can and cannot see and hear. Not in a democratic country, anyway.

So, where are the broadcasters in support of free speech? They’re too busy cowering in their cubicles worried about the state of their business. They’re too busy blurring and bleeping things whether they need it or not like bleeping Adam Carolla saying “f” on David Letterman and Howard Stern saying “penis” on Nightline.

American broadcasters, grow some balls and defend free speech.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, March 2, 2006
8:58 p.m.
Published in: on March 2, 2006 at 9:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

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