In response to breasts, four-letter words
and racial slurs broadcast on public television and radio, many
telecommunication companies are now re-evaluating the content and
hosts of their shows. Just last week, Clear Channel Radio decided
to drop Howard Stern from six stations, claiming that a segment of
his show involved sexually explicit language and raunchy details
about the infamous Paris Hilton pornographic tape. It seems hardly
coincidental that the decision came only weeks after Janet Jackson
exposed her breast during the Super Bowl halftime show and just one
day before Clear Channel’s president was scheduled to speak
to the House subcommittee on telecommunications and after the
Federal Communications Commission, proposed a $755,000 fine against
Clear Channel.

While Clear Channel President and Chief Executive Officer Mark
Mays called the decision a “responsible broadcasting
initiative,” perhaps the true meaning of the decision lies
elsewhere: a growing fear among media conglomerates, pressure from
Congress and the FCC’s repugnance toward expletives,
“private parts” and other taboos. Such motives for
canceling popular programs prove weaknesses in large media
corporations who are merely caving to censorship and economic
pressure and then praising the “moral” motives behind
their decisions.

As part of an effort to help curtail indecency on television and
radio, Congress has introduced legislation that grants the FCC
broader powers to enforce its standards by raising the maximum fine
from $27,500 to $275,000. Furthermore, the FCC is now enacting a
five-second delay on many live broadcasts in order to better
control content. In light of the recent indecency violations
— primarily the Janet Jackson incident — company heads
who previously opposed new FCC regulations, claiming that they were
unlikely to be enforced, now suddenly back them. They have adopted
zero-tolerance policies and then have the audacity to call their
motives altruistic.

Why was Stern’s segment last week more ludicrous than his
other shows? Most likely, the answer is that it was not. By pulling
Stern from its stations, Clear Channel hopes to censor nudity,
language and racial pejoratives. But if Clear Channel’s move
represents a “responsible broadcasting initiative,” as
it claims, then why has it failed to curb any sort of violence that
is broadcasted? Moral outrage aside, perhaps media corporations
should focus more on violence. After all what is more detrimental
to society, sex or murder and senseless violence?

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