Where’s The Outrage?

The FCC is at it again.  I found this interesting article online about the recent fines that have been handed down by the most corrupt political organization in America.  Apparently, they’re trying to extort nearly 4 million dollars from CBS and their affiliates for airing an orgy scene from a 2004 episode of Without A Trace, one of the most popular shows on TV right now.  (It’s so popular my Grandmother watches it.)
I haven’t seen the show in question but I don’t remember there being a huge outcry over it.   Also, in the same article, CBS is still going to have to pay that ridiculous fine of $550,000 for airing Janet Jackson’s nipple which viewers saw for what had to be a split second.   The FCC rejected CBS’s appealing of the ruling and are still expecting the money.  Let this be the moment of truth for the entertainment industry, the moment when they start growing some balls and fight back against the evil regulators who are so clearly in the pocket of the Religious Right they don’t have any common sense whatsoever.  (You can read the article here.) 
With all this madness happening right in front of our eyes, I thought it would be appropriate to showcase another anti-FCC rant which I submitted to The New York Times Op-Ed Page last year.  (Yep, it was rejected.)  It focuses on the changing of the guard at the Commission, when Michael Powell retired and Kevin Martin took his place.  In the piece, I argue that without a sufficient backlash against the regulatory fascism practised by the FCC, things would get worse.  Sadly, my prediction is already becoming true. 
Let’s hope CBS drops its dumb lawsuit against Howard Stern and sues the FCC instead.  It would certainly wake us all up and remind us that we cannot take our personal freedoms for granted.  No one has the right to declare anything obscene without passing the community standard test.   
By Dennis Earl

HAMILTON, Ontario, Canada – “Meet the new boss/Same as the old boss.”

 Won’t Get Fooled Again (The Who, 1971)

One can’t help but invoke Pete Townshend’s classic lyric when discussing the recent leadership change at the Federal Communications Commission. After a turbulent 4 years at the top, controversial Chairman Michael Powell is gone. His replacement is the bespectacled, boyish-looking Kevin J. Martin. Not yet 40 and looking half his age, the former attorney from North Carolina was a President Bush-appointed FCC Commissioner in 2001. Now the big kahuna in charge of ruining the entertainment industry, it is undeniable that the Commission’s unconstitutional mission of selectively fining and targeting broadcasters for increasingly debatable charges of indecency will not only continue, it will intensify.

Martin is one of those alleged old-school Republicans who believe in “limited government” and “competition, not regulation” when philosophizing about business in general. Sounds good but it’s a crock.

On April 5, 2005, Fox News reporter Stuart Varney asked Chairman Martin for a specific definition of indecency. It was a question Martin was incapable of answering directly. Instead, he tried to deflect attention away from his corrupt organization by saying that the Commission is merely enforcing what the courts have legally defined as indecent, a legal definition he didn’t bother to explain.

Then, he claimed that the incredibly dramatic increase in viewer and listener complaints since he joined the FCC 4 years ago, “is a serious and significant issue that the Commission needs to continue to be focused on”.

“You know when I first arrived at the Commission, we received a few hundred complaints per year from parents and consumers about what was on television and radio, and the next year we received a few thousand, and then the following year we received over ten thousand, and then the following year we received over a million complaints. What you’re seeing is an environment in which consumers and parents are increasingly concerned…”

No, dear Chairman, you’re wrong. 99.8% of those complaints you referred to came from one source: the Parents Television Council, that delightfully meddlesome, obsessively fascist organization that gets its jollies from scrutinizing hours and hours of entertainment in order to find things that few would consider truly offensive. Take away their corrupting and infuriating influence and you realize that few people with lives ever bother to complain about entertainment, both then and now.

But it’s about to get worse. Since Howard Stern announced his move to satellite radio, all of his governmental enemies are suddenly interested in “cleaning up” pay entertainment. Not only do they want to fine him and others with astonishingly high monetary penalties, they also want to throw all the indecent entertainers they don’t approve of in jail. It sounds like something out of an Orwell novel.

The main problem with all of this is the lack of sufficient outrage from the public and the entertainment industry. When the Bush Administration overstepped its boundaries during the overblown Terri Schiavo fiasco, public retribution was quick and fierce. As soon as they realized they didn’t have the public’s support, they dropped the subject and worked on screwing up something else.

So, why no collective anger towards the FCC and politicians who think they know what’s best for us with regards to our pop culture?

According to an article in the Washington Post, former chairman Michael Powell “proposed more than $4 million in fines over the past four years, more than all other former FCC chairmen combined.”

According to that same article, “Martin often said that indecency fines proposed in the past year were too low, and he called for broadcasters to be fined for each utterance or depiction of indecent material within a program.”

Until the public starts standing up for their own freedom of choice and for the rights of its entertainers, and the entertainment industry fights these ridiculous and unconstitutional fines for its programming, things are going to get much worse.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, March 16, 2006
1:25 a.m.

Published in: on March 16, 2006 at 1:30 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Right on, Dennis!  I, for one, do not want to live in a society where the government can censor TV programs I want to see.  That’s a dangerous precedent, and history has plenty of sad examples of what happens when governments to become the final arbiters of what art is and is not acceptable for public viewing.  Such an Orwellian America is surely not what the Founding Fathers had in mind. 
    I also agree with your assessment about the PTC.  Since when does a group that claims 1 million members have any right to force its subjective judgment on 110 million U.S. TV households?  Fortunately, I found out that an organization called TV Watch (http://www.televisionwatch.org) has been founded to give millions of American TV fans a voice.  It looks like a welcome resource that will add balance to a debate that committed activists have thus far dominated.   May our basic right to choose what TV programs we will watch always be protected.

  2. Thank you Paul for your kind words.  You are the first person to leave a comment on my site and it was a great one.  You made a lot of sense.  Thanks for the link.  I’ve bookmarked it and will investigate it in the future.
    This is one of my pet issues so there are more pieces on this subject on my site you can read about.  Check out American Broadcasters, Grow Some Balls; Abolish The FCC; What Is Indecent; and Just Don’t Watch It!, an old college newspaper article I wrote in 1995, that remains relevant despite some out-of-date pop culture references.
    Expect more of this kind of thing in the future.  Thanks again for writing and come back often to the site.  I’ll be posting a mix of old and new stuff as the year goes on.
    Dennis Earl
    Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
    Wednesday, April 5, 2006
    7:40 p.m.

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