By Chris Biscuiti
You Sound Off on Clear Channel Vs. Howard Stern:
In last week’s column, I reported that Clear Channel Broadcasting booted Howard Stern and Bubba the Love Sponge off of its radio stations, citing a newly instituted “Zero Tolerance” policy as the primary reason for these controversial firings.
You had plenty to say about this situation, and I received many passionate emails on this hot-button topic. Here are the crÃƒÂ¨me de la crÃƒÂ¨me of your responses, with my own commentary after each post:
Pete Bagnulo writes:
Chris, I thought I would weigh in on the whole FCC topic seeing as my best friend used to work for a Clear Channel radio station. As you may or may not know, Clear Channel has been buying out as many stations as humanly possible and trying to convert them into “safe” “programmed” stations. Basically, as a DJ you lose all control over what you play.
Clear Channel was also famous for banning hundreds of songs shortly after 9/11 because they contained such awful and offensive words as Fire and Kill in the title. There was actually a huge list posted of all the songs Clear Channel would not play on their station because they were thought of as inflammatory or insensitive. More recently, Clear Channel has decided that they want to clean up their act on a more serious and long-term basis. Their so-called “broadcast standards” are based on the FCC’s recent paranoid threats against anything offensive or insensitive. The fact the Clear Channel can “censor” its air waves scares the shit out of most of us who realize what is going on. Strangely, in most cases, the message of many songs does not seem important, but rather the exact words that are used, regardless of their contexts.
I’ve rambled long enough, but the gist is that Clear Channel is a monopoly- driven company that is sucking much of the originality out of the radio industry and telling you what you should listen to. It’s all about being conservative and telling people what you think is best for them. You’ve got to love it when those old stereotypes still explain so much of how our country runs.
Pete has some very interesting and passionate things to say. I remember the Clear Channel “ban” on words after September 11. While it’s ridiculous that they didn’t pay attention to context when choosing which songs were too risky to air at the time, I must be fair and say that perhaps some of the temporary removal of certain songs could be understandable.
In wrestling, for example, WWE immediately changed the name of “Raw Is War” to “Raw Zone” after September 11, but now that there is enough time removed from the situation, WWE sees no problem including “War” in their title of the newly released DVD that chronicles the Monday Night Wars between WWF and WCW.
Pete alluded to my biggest problem with Clear Channel, which is the fact that they are “sucking much of the originality out of the radio industry and telling you what you should listen to.” Radio stations have been doing this for decades, but I have noticed recently that there is even less room for innovation than there used to be on the airwaves, when compared with ten, twenty, or thirty years ago.
There was even a hit song in the 1990s Ã¢â‚¬â€œ “Funk Dat” by Sagat Ã¢â‚¬â€œ that included satiric lyrical commentary about this same problem: Why is it every time I turn on the radio, I hear the same five songs 15 times a day for three months? Come on man, Funk Dat! Ironically enough, the song was endured in the same repetitive fashion that it speaks out against, thereby negating its message.
Steven Ruppert writes:
I am writing to you in response to the article about Clear Channel taking Howard Stern and the Bubba show off the air. My perspective is that there are certain TV and radio shows where you would expect sexual content and others where you would not. You would certainly not play Howard Stern in the car with your kids riding along because you know what you are going to get. However, you do not anticipate nudity on the Super Bowl or sex talk on some of the alleged “family” comedies on television. For example, on “Eight Simple Rules” a “family” comedy, there were jokes made about condoms; and on “Still Standing” a comedy on CBS, there was an entire episode devoted to the size of the son’s genitals. I am more concerned about shows that target children and families and yet still insert sexual and adult topics than I am about shows where you know what you are going to see.
I do not consider myself a prude and like naked women as much as the next guy. I would have thought nothing of the Super Bowl halftime show if my 11 year-old-daughter were not sitting next to me watching also. The other aspect about the Super Bowl that has not garnered a whole lot of publicity is that it seemed that every commercial had something to do with the male genitals, whether it was enhancement pills or someone getting a bikini wax or a guy getting bit there by a dog. Anytime the government tells you what is good and bad and does any kind of censorship it’s not a good thing, and while Stern and the other Stern clones are easy targets to go after I think it is setting up a dangerous precedent.
I agree with Steve 100 percent. Going after Stern and Bubba could be the beginning of a domino effect in the entertainment industry. It’s not a guarantee, but I would not be surprised if morning, afternoon, and drive-time DJs are scrutinized and penalized in a “witch hunt” type fashion for months and even years to come.
The hypocrisy of the networks should not be overlooked either. Why is Janet’s tit so controversial when it pales in comparison to having to explain to Steve’s or anyone’s child about the causes of male impotence or the benefits of sexual performance-enhancers, such as Le Vitra and Viagra? Like Steve said, there is definitely a dangerous precedent being set.
Ed Novak writes:
Just when all this censorship crap had seemed to fade into the background after Columbine, the dance starts again. I call the creation of a radio ratings system before the end of the year. And I guess “bitch” and “pussy” will no longer be permissible in entertainment, either.
Wow, in one fell swoop, Justin and Janet brought back the pro-censorship movement full force, disrupted race relations between blacks and whites, and destroyed the progress mass entertainment’s made towards free speech over the last few years. Way to go, guys.
Like Ed, I can’t believe the repercussions from this fallout either. Something that started out as an absurd, almost comic overreaction has resulted in serious consequences throughout the realm of popular culture. I still can’t believe how quickly the FCC and Clear Channel has jumped on this, but I would lay all the blame on Janet and Justin either. I wholeheartedly believe that the FCC and Clear Channel have been looking to pull something like this for awhile, and if not the Super Bowl performance, I am sure they could have drummed up another excuse for their somewhat harsh sanctions.
Scott Granell writes:
As someone who lives in Tampa, I find it hard to defend Bubba, if for not other reason than he is the High Priest of Hogan, but the genie is out of the bottle. Any statement can offend anyone, especially if it is trying to tell unpleasant truths.
Yes, the Sterns and the Bubbas abuse this privilege, but they are like the rectum of pop culture; an offensive part, but one which has a purpose, even if it is to give an outlet for the waste product of the culture.
Once government censors get to say what is offensive, the genie will not be put back into the bottle, as it is much harder to get liberty back once it is yielded. You offer an inch, and you lose a yard. The sad part is that children should NOT be listening to any radio during this time, so, of course, people will rely on the state, especially if all of the targets are unpopular with the right.
First they came for the shock jocks, then they will come for the web pages, and then so on and so on, until there is no one left to speak up. This is a bad time for American democracy.
Scott is right on the money here. I look at Stern and Bubba, perhaps, as the new Larry Flynts of the world. We have to defend everyone’s rights, or soon there will be none left.
The Next Topic for The Weekly Media Monitor Readers’ Sound Off Will Be Steroids In Major League Baseball
In two weeks, I am looking to post another Weekly Media Monitor Sound Off feature. This will be your chance to have your thoughts and opinions about the red hot steroid scandal in Major League Baseball and other sports as well. Feel free to sound off as much as you like by emailing me at email@example.com. If your responses are interesting and articulate, you just might be able to make the cut inThe Weekly Media Monitor.
The 411: Staff Links of the Week:
411 black: Ken Anderson wrote a terrific piece about the fierce, permanent implications that a Constitutional ban on gay marriage could have on American society.
411 movies: There are three reviews up on Mel Gibson’s controversial blockbuster, The Passion of the Christ, and one of them is mine. Miss Galatea and Erik Gustafson also offer up their own unique takes on the religious epic that chronicles the last twelve hours of Jesus’ life.
411 music: Mathan Erhardt poignantly explains why he doesn’t dig downloading music from the Internet.
411 games: Liquidcross intriguingly blasts video games like Grand Theft Auto for containing gratuitous adult content solely for marketing purposes.
411 comics: Kevin S. Mahoney ponders the cornerstone characters of the Marvel and D.C. universes.
411 figures: The staff at 411 figures presents extensive coverage of the Toy Fair 2004.
That’s all for now Peace.
Chris Biscuiti also writes for 411’s wrestling zone.