The Wall Street Journal reports that the judges on the federal appeals court gave the FCC a tough time in oral arguments over fines against Fox:
The judges bored in on the FCC argument. Noting that the hearing was being broadcast on C-Span, the judges quizzed Mr. Miller about whether news programs that subsequently air the oral arguments — where the offending words were sprinkled liberally throughout — would violate FCC standards.
Mr. Miller said likely not, as the words are used for legitimate news purposes.
“This seems to be a scheme that depends on what you [the FCC] think instead of having objective criteria,” said Judge Rosemary Pooler, part of the appeals-court panel. “Are you just telling the networks … to make some sort of cockamamie claim and they’ll survive?”
Judge Pooler kept Mr. Miller on the defensive throughout his half-hour long argument, telling him he seemed to contradict himself over whether broadcasters can claim virtually anything has news value. Later, she asked why the FCC had cited a need to protect children from profanities when it had cited no studies finding children were injured by them, but yet had never sought to penalize broadcasters for violence in programs when many studies show they do injure children.
I smell a Constitutional moment coming on. Fingers crossed.
Howard Stern had a fascinating interview this morning with comic Paul Mooney, who, along with Richard Pryor, took some credit for popularizing and, they hoped desensitizing the use of the N-word. After Michael Richards’ implosion, Mooney has given up the word, saying that he and others held some responsibility for Richards. He also said that he spent a few hours meeting with Richards and Jesse Jackson in the redemption tour. What scared Richards most, he said, was when white people came up to him saying they agreed with him. Mooney said he has known Richards for 20 years and that what we saw on that camera-phone video was not a shtick gone out of control but a mental breakdown. He also said that Mel Gibson was the A-bomb and Richard is the fallout. Stern and Mooney recalled when Pryor came back from a trip to Africa and foreswore the word. Mooney was there that night and still used it. But no more.
I’ve been thinking that the dividing line has been not just the word and not just the race of the speaker but instead irony. When Pryor and Mooney and hip-hop artists used the word, they used it with obvious irony. When Richards used it, he had none. We Americans are often accused — usually by our witty British cousins — of being deaf to irony and that’s generally true.
Compare Reuters’ coverage of Sirius chief Mel Karmazin’s remarks at their conference in this story and this blog post. The story says: ” ‘How are we reliant (on Stern)?’ Karmazin said at the Reuters Media Summit in New York. ‘I don’t think we’re reliant in any shape or form. We have 135 channels.’ ” But on the blog they quote Karmazin saying:
“Howard would say that we had 600,000 subscribers (in December 2005) and we now went to 6.3 million (subscribers). Well, over 5 million people subscribe to Sirius paying $12.95 a month or $130 a year times 5 million (additional new subscribers after Stern joined) … So gee, based on Howard, you (Sirius) brings in $500 million a year and you only pay me (Howard) $100 million. (Howard would say,) ‘I didn’t do so well in getting paid.’”
“Some of the geniuses on the sell-side (analysts on Wall Street) said the Stern Effect would be in December (2005). And then when we had a great January, they said it kicked over to January. Then they said, when we came out with our first quarter 2006 (financial report) … the Stern Effect is for ’06. Then when we said what about the second quarter? Well that’s the Stern Effect still. Then when I mentioned to you the third quarter retail net adds (net additional subscriber additions) were, that’s the Stern Effect. Well, I believe the Stern Effect, like any other content, is going to be there whenever the consumer is going into the store to make a decision on which product to buy.”
The head of the UK’s Press Complaints Commission — which is an oddity to my American free-speech, First Amendment, independent sensibilities — wants there to be a voluntary code of conduct for bloggers.
What’s the appropriate British word for that? Bollocks, I believe.
Here’s someone else who doesn’t understand what blogs are. They are people talking. Do you suggest you should regulate the speech of people over the phone and set up a complaints commission to deal with that? Or on the street? Or in bed? It’s conversation, fool. Believe it or not, bloggers don’t want to be newspapers. They want to talk. That’s not controllable and that is precisely why it has exploded and why the deposed controllers in media and regulation are so scared of it. But codes and commissions are not the answer. Listening is. If you don’t like what you hear, click away and reply because you can now, without having to go through a commission to do so.
: The Times of London sums up blog reaction to this foolishness over there in its fine comment blog, concluding:
But in the end sanity triumphs and truth outs. The blogworld doesn’t need codes of conduct and regulation because human societies, when free, have a natural tendency to what a clever Austrian called spontaneous order. It would be hilarious though for the State to give regulation a go, just to watch the mauling and the quickest u-turn in history.
: * LATER CLARIFICATION: I heard from Tim Toulmin, head of the PCC, who said that the BBC story didn’t represent him properly. When I emailed him what I was saying — that blogs, like other conversations, can’t be regulated — he agreed.
: * AND MORE: Toulmin objects to the headline. I recant it. He says in email: “If I had said what I was originally
reported to have said I’d agree with it.” But he did not. So he is not a twit.
Karen Brooks writes a wonderful column at News.com.au defending a novel that includes good and bad Muslim characters against an Australian attack of PC tyranny that killed the work and threatens artists’ freedom.
Rebuffing a work of fiction on the basis of a “Muslim issue” is offensive. It somehow implies that the representations within the book are more than imaginative, and that, yet again, a few characters stand in for all. Ironically, those who protest against the content are doing exactly what they foolishly believe they’re preventing: stereotyping and reducing a diverse people to cliches.
But the negative response to Dale’s book has even wider implications for all creative artists. . . .
Whereas journalism ideally works in binarisms, presenting “both sides of the story”, creative artists are not so obliged. We rely on them to plunge us into the lives and psyches of different characters: good, bad and, yes, Muslim too. Without artistic licence, we stifle the creative impulse, curb imaginative expression and invite Orwell’s thought police into our communities and, worse, our heads. . . .
Whether we agree or disagree with the content and characters our artists create is irrelevant: don’t let being afraid (disguised as PC sensitivity) generate censorship.
Mr. Dale, please put your book up online. Don’t let the censors, no matter what their stripe, stop you.
Bob Wrightdefends the First Amendment against the FCC in the Wall Street Journal:
So an FCC policy intent on ensuring that there will be nothing on broadcast TV that is inappropriate for kids during certain hours is doomed to failure. Do the math: 85% of households have cable and satellite, leaving 15% receiving broadcast TV only. Two-thirds of those households do not have kids under 18. Thus, the FCC appears to be basing its actions on a policy that is relevant to 5% of households. Moreover, government efforts to regulate content are invariably riddled with unfortunate consequences.
For example, breaking with established precedent, the FCC recently found a live network news program to be “indecent” because a single expletive was unexpectedly uttered by someone being interviewed by a reporter. What public interest is served when news organizations, unwilling to take the risk of incurring a fine, stop interviewing individuals live on camera — or air all newscasts only after being cleared by a language censor? . . .