The daily Stern: It’s the First Amendment, stupid

The daily Stern: It’s the First Amendment, stupid
: Thought you’d go a day without a report on Howard Stern and freedom of speech, just because it’s on the weekend? No way!

Nation editor-in-chief Katrina vanden Heuvel blogs on Stern (linking to this very Stern-heavy blog) and makes it, indeed, a First Amendment issue:

When Clear Channel yanked Howard Stern for violating its new ‘zero tolerance’ obscenity policy, the network cited as its reason a racial epithet made by one of Stern’s listeners. But, Clear Channel’s explanation is hogwash.

I agree with the many people who think that Stern is offensive to minorities and women. He’s degraded the quality of radio by trafficking in crude sexual references and unseemly racial remarks for as long as he’s been in broadcasting. But the issue here isn’t indecency; to paraphrase James Carville, it’s the First Amendment, stupid….

Clear Channel’s decision to fire Stern signals the latest target in its sights–the Bill of Rights. Its decision is based not on any pious, self-serving qualms about indecency on its stations but on its desire to curry favor with Bush and his Republican Congressional allies.

The implications are alarming. If Clear Channel can yank the commercially-successful Howard Stern, then it has the power to silence any DJ or radio kingpin who refuses to play the network’s chosen music, adhere to its appointed standards, or mouth Clear Channel’s political line.

Its decision to pull the plug on Stern coincides not with a sudden increase in Stern’s offensive behavior but with a rise in Stern’s anti-Bush rhetoric. According to Jeff Jarvis of the blog Buzzmachine, Stern “has become an anybody-but-Bush voter,” based, in part, on his concerns about the threat of censorship from the FCC. Stern also recently endorsed Al Franken’s book on the air.

Is it a coincidence that Stern came out against Bush shortly before his suspension? Or that Clear Channel president John Hogan was due to appear before a House subcommittee investigating indecency over the airwaves, on the heels of Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction”?

What is not under dispute, according to the Center for Public Integrity, is that Clear Channel vice-chairman Thomas Hicks and Hick’s law firm have given Bush more than $225,000–and Clear Channel’s PAC, executives, and their relatives have given three-quarters of their political donations to the Republican Party.

So, they couldn’t have been too happy to hear Stern’s recent on-air rant about the president: “Get him out of office. I’m tellin’ you, man, he’s in dangerous territory [with] a religious agenda and you gotta vote him out–anyone but Bush,” Stern railed….

“When these insider dealings were exposed by the Houston Chronicle in 1999,” Micah Sifry wrote in his blog about Stern and Clear Channel, “Hicks resigned from the company’s board. By then, he had made Bush a rich man when he bought the Texas Rangers from him and his partners in 1998 for $250 million, three times their investment in the team.” …

It’s the First Amendment, stupid.

I’ll say it again just because it sounds so nice: It’s the First Amendment, stupid.

: AP story on Stern here.

: The FCC didn’t announce fines on Friday but they are working on them. From Bloomberg:

The Federal Communications Commission is close to levying about two dozen fines for indecency against radio companies, including Viacom Inc.’s Infinity Broadcasting and Clear Channel Communications Inc., FCC documents show.

“At the end of 2003, we had pending more than two dozen cases in the final stage of investigation, and anticipate enforcement action in all or most of these cases within the next few months,” FCC Chairman Michael Powell said in a letter to U.S. Rep. John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat. The March 2 letter was released Friday.

: The Economist on the cast:

Mr Powell’s new passion? Smut.

Unlike those fiddly telecoms and media rules, the FCC’s assault on indecency has yielded gratifyingly quick results. Janet Jackson’s breast, which escaped during the Super Bowl half-time show, is safely under wraps again. Radio shock jocks, such as Howard Stern and (the somewhat less famous)