Thursday, February 26, 2004

Throwing in the Sponge
Clear Channel, the giant radio chain, is trying to do for indecency what it did for dissent this time a year ago--terminate it from their air with extreme prejudice. After contemplating a proposed $755,000 fine this week thanks to the antics of a jock in Florida named Bubba the Love Sponge, the chain fired Bubba and yanked Howard Stern's syndicated morning show from six of its stations. The chain's president "apologized" for the Bubba show today, saying "We were wrong for airing that material." (For a little taste of Bubba's act, click here.)

What Clear Channel's president didn't tell Congress was, "We're ashamed because we got caught; otherwise it wouldn't have bothered us much." In a nutshell, this is why government regulation is necessary--not just of broadcasting but of plenty of other industries, too. Without the huge fine, Bubba would have gone on doing what he does, and Clear Channel would have had not a pang of conscience about it. For all their yammering now about stemming the rising tide of indecency, one month ago they were happily contributing to it without a second thought. Their new chain-wide regulations on indecency are not some magnanimous gift to the listening public--they're political cover. Sure, it'll help stem the tide--but let's be clear that they're being forced to do it. They would never do it otherwise.

I am usually a First-Amendment absolutist, and my general response to people who don't like something they hear on radio or see on TV is to tell 'em to turn it off. But I'm an ex-radio guy, and I come from a time when the lines were drawn a lot more strictly than they are now. (For example, I remember the morning I first let the word "hell" slip from my lips on the air--which was pretty cutting-edge for small-town radio in the 1980s.) And I know that it's possible to do brilliant, entertaining radio without dwelling on every conceivable thing that happens between the navel and the knees, as Bubba and Stern are famous for doing. In Stern's case, he often aims a little higher, displaying an absolute obsession with breasts. His listeners seem to share it, but think for a second--on the radio, every woman's breasts are beautiful.

Note to all: Due to commitments that actually get me out of the house, posts will be light to non-existent on this site from now until sometime Sunday. I hope to post a couple more times on Best of the Blogs before my guest blogger week comes to an end on Sunday, but we'll see if that's possible. This afternoon on BotB: Black Market Nukes for Peace.

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