The death of broadcast

The death of broadcast
: Clear Channel has cut off Howard Stern. When Janet Jackson’s outfit opened, it opened a door not on her breast but on censorship. Clear Channel even sent out a press release bragging about cutting off Stern. MarksFriggin, the unofficial Stern site, says those stations are in Pittsburgh, Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando, Rochester, Louisville and San Diego. Clear Channel also fired Bubba the Love Sponge.

: Here’s how I predict this will play out:

– Stern will engineer his firing from Viacom.

– Stern will sign with satellite, giving satellite the boost it needs to become a viable business.

– Buy satellite stock now. Sell radio stock now.

– Broadcast radio will quickly falter, losing attention to MP3s, satellite, and cellular broadcast. Broadcast radio will die. Consolidation won’t kill it. Censorship will.

– Satellite will grow rapidly, getting more consumer revenue and ad revenue.

– Broadcast TV will suffer similar blows.

– Cable and satellite TV will grow.

– The bottom line: Any medium that can be government-regulated will shrink; any medium free of government regulation will grow.

– Government censorship will grow until, at long last, libertarians and Republicans and Democrats wake up and realize that this is not the role they want for government, this is not the America they envision. But in the meantime, they will have destroyed a medium or two.

: And why don’t you tell the FCC what you think. Here’s how.

I don’t need a government nanny, do you? I didn’t think so.

: The more I think about this, the more enraged I get. One tit flopped out and the government — the Bush administration — can’t wait to play to its far-right fringe and censor speech and intimidate speech and chill speech. How dare they? This is not the role we expect of our government. We don’t need a nanny.

Let’s hear a little liberartarian outrage at government meddling in our lives and our speech.

Let’s hear a little conservative outrage at government growing beyond its bounds.

Let’s hear a little liberal outrage at goverment stiffling free spech.

I don’t give a damn whether you like or despise Howard Stern; that’s beside the point. If you’re American, you cherish free speech and you should be appalled at what is happening to it. This is not coming from media consolidation. This is coming from government intimidation.

F Michael Powell. F the FCC. F Clear Channel.

Defend Howard Stern. Or lose your own rights to say what you want where and when you want to say it.

: I know that many constituencies want to tell Clear Channel to f off. Here’s where and how.

: UPDATES… There are calls for me to answer the many comments on this post. I’m traveling today and so I don’t have time to say much until later. But a few basic observations:

– Yes, Clear Channel is a company with the full right and responsibility to decide what to put on its air. But that’s not what’s happening here. The government is behind this. The government called broadcast chieftens to the woodshed and they came back vowing to avoid further government censure. Mel Karmazin of Viacom, owner of Stern’s station, held a conference call threatening to fire DJs, program directors, and general managers who are even the subject of complaint.

The government tried to put a chill on speech. And it worked.

And that should chill you.

– Don’t like Stern? Fine. I understand. Don’t want to defend Stern? Ok, but what happens when they come after somebody you do like. What happens when Bill O’Reilly slips one day and says something that offends someone in a gotcha way and that’s just the excuse somebody needed to demand that he go off the air. Or Andy Rooney. Or Dan Rather. Or Al Franken, once he’s on radio. Doesn’t matter what your political stripe is; it’s all speech and once it can be shut off for one guy it can be shut off for the next.

Defending free speech almost always starts with defending those whose speech you don’t like — but if you don’t defend that speech, then you defend no one’s speech.

When I grew up, the ACLU defended the noxious speech of the KKK to march in the heavily Jewish Chicago suburb of Skokie. It was necessary to defend the principle even with them so as to defend the rights of antiwar protestors or civil rights protesters or, in latter days, abortion protestors to protest.

If you don’t defend Stern agains the government chill, then you open the door for someone you like to be taken off the air.

– Yes, they are public airwaves. That means they belong to me, too. I want to listen to Stern. You don’t. Fine. Change the channel. We have lots of them.

– I abhor this culture of offense. We are becoming ruled by what offends a few of us. If it’s offends somebody, then it must be wrong and it must be shut up.

Well, I don’t need anyone — government or corporate nanny — to protect me from that which might offend me. I can take care of myself and respond myself.

– I have been far, far more offended by things I have heard Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson say on our public airwaves but I have not called for them to be banned, even though they are more disgusting and hateful than Stern has ever been.

– Hiawatha Bray, a good technology reporter for the Boston Globe (his blog here) leaves a comment saying good riddance to Stern. Fine if you feel that way. But what happens when people get offended by something you say, Hiawatha? There’s something bigger happening here and it has an impact on our business, on media, on journalism, on the press. Danger lurks here, colleague.

– See Micah Sifry on Clear Channel. See Adam Curry. See Tony Pierce.

– Have to go. More later….