First they came for Howard Stern… and then they came for you

First they came for Howard Stern… and then they came for you

: Few were standing up protesting when the FCC went after Howard Stern…. Few were yelling about the slippery slope of government censorship…. Until it put a chill on airing Saving Private Ryan. Then the newspaper editorials finally started to act alarmed, as well they should.

Here are two more that should alarm you:

First, here’s a Billboard story saying that the FCC will go after satellite next:

With envelope-pushing air talent like Howard Stern and Opie & Anthony flocking to the less-restricted refuge of satellite radio, could the Federal Communications Commission be far behind?

Specifically, could the FCC enforce its indecency rules — which Stern claims drove him away from terrestrial radio — on satellite radio too?

That’s exactly what Saul Levine is hoping for. On Oct. 29, Levine, the president of Mt. Wilson FM Broadcasters, filed a Petition for Rulemaking to amend Part 25 of the FCC’s pending satellite radio rules to include an indecency provision.

While legal experts say subscription radio enjoys deeper First Amendment protections than free radio, Levine’s petition argues that the FCC is, in fact, empowered to enforce indecency rules on satellite radio and asks the commission to “level (the) playing field.” …

According to Levine’s petition, the FCC already has subjected satellite radio to Equal Employment Opportunity and political broadcasting rules and policies. What’s more, the petition says, the type of radio service (i.e., broadcast, common carrier, etc.) “is not a relevant consideration” in the imposition of programing or public-interest rules, nor is whether satellite radio operates as a broadcast or subscription service. In fact, the FCC put satcasters on notice in 1997 that it “may adopt additional public-interest requirements at a later date.”

An unnamed Senate staffer and First Amendment attorney Robert Corn-Revere also say in that story that this won’t work because satellite is a paid service you choose to get and because the First Amendment won’t allow it. But that won’t stop them from trying. Just watch.

The second story is in today’s Wall Street Journal arguing that computers and the internet are the next target of the prudes, prigs, and self-appointed national nannies:

If America gets serious about doing battle over “values,” will the Internet-enabled personal computer be able to stay out of the crosshairs?

It’s a wonder that no one has yet run for office by campaigning against the computer. After all, you couldn’t ask for a better sin-delivery system than a PC with a fast Web connection….

According to their stereotypes, conservatives worry about sex while liberals worry about violence, and the world according to the personal computer provides a lot about which both sides can fret….

If you don’t protect Howard Stern’s speech from government censorship, yours is not far behind.

  • Steve

    Holy crap! The FCC is trying to become a juggernaut for those who are afraid that somewhere, somehow, somebody might be having fun in some way different than the way they do it. In the immortal words of R.A.Heinlein, Mrs. Grundy is always with us.
    If we don’t figure out a way to stomp on the FCC, we, and the inconvenient First Amendment, will be in some serious danger.

  • Brett

    I’ll join arms with you here, Jeff – glad to do so. But you’re the expert. Who do I write? Who do I call?
    If you’re going to incite me to action, then show me where to best channel my action.

  • aaron

    Where in that article does it say the FCC will go after satellite next?

  • Brett

    Hey Jeff
    You might be interested in this forum:
    These like-minded no-FCC-encroachment folks seem to have an early scoop on big news like this.

  • Brett

    And this:
    “Saul Levine, whose attorneys filed the petition Oct. 29 on behalf of his L.A.-based Mt. wilson Fm Broadcasters, says he was at the NAB Radio Show in San Diego last month when Howard Stern announced that he was going to move to Sirius satellite radio and crush traditional broadcasters. Stern cited the indecency crackdown and some broadcasters acquiescence as one reason for the move.
    Levine took it personally. ‘When I heard him say he was going to destroy radio, that he was going to kill it, I decided I had to fight back to protect the radio industry. I have three stations and over a million listeners a week.'”
    This is a clear example of the FCC as a business-killer/job-buster.

  • tony

    i hope the fcc does try to restrict speech in satellite.
    for if they do they will out themselves as being the mccartneyists that howard et al have accused them of being.
    and it will dispell their biggest excuse that they’re protecting children from what happens on the public spectrum.
    st. saul levine i will call him if michael powell takes the bait and tries to make the leap into sat. radio on his personal agenda to silence stern and limit free speech that adults are more than happy to pay for.
    take the bait michael! take the bait!

  • Karl

    I tend to doubt that the FCC will “take the bait,” now that the election is over. Remember, this FCC was going to give NBC a pass for Bono’s f-bomb at the Golden Globes. It was only after the Janet Jackson halftime flash that Congress got involved and the FCC got on the high horse.
    Indeed, it’s worth remembering because, while Jeff nicely used the FOIA to show that the FCC did not get many unique complaints about at least one of these incidents, the reality is that the FCC was (and maybe is) not motivated by the complaints. The FCC was motivated by pressure from Congress in an election year.
    Focusing on Congress will also tell you why the legal obstacles to extending indecency regs to satellite may be the smallest obstacles. If the indecency regs apply to satellite (or cable), where people pay for the content, the very lucrative business of PPV porn on cable and satellite is threatened. And the corporations that would lose that revenue have a lot of political clout — much more than Levine with his three stations. So it’s a fair bet that there won’t be much enthusiasm in Congress to push the FCC on the issue. As the non-porn version of Deep throat said, “Follow the money.”

  • TomTomTommy

    thanks for electing Dubya, all you “war liberals” out there….

  • John

    Hyperbole, thy name is Jeff!

  • Don Mynack

    Uh, how about Sirius and XM move their corp headquarters out of the U.S., and broadcast whatever the hell they want? What power would the FCC have then, if any? Isn’t the spectrum they use unregulated and out of the range of the FCC bands?

  • HH

    Oh that’s right… Dubya is the problem. Remind me again which party has been behind much of this in Congress… starts with a D (kinda like those draft rumors)…
    And again the Tom Harkins and David Brocks of the world have done all they can to jump-start an end to truly free political speech in media and there has been much less reaction to that than to Howard Stern’s problems.

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