Posts from November 19, 2004

Now this is press transparency

Now this is press transparency

: The Times (of NY) rounds up all the sex scandals at The Spectator in London:

“Someone should bottle that magazine’s tap water,” wrote The Guardian in an editorial this week, referring to the three erotic scandals that have enveloped The Spectator in recent months, involving, among others, its editor, associate editor, publisher, former receptionist, one of its columnists and the home secretary.

I keep saying we need to humanize journalism here. So that’s what we need: Some good, juicy, public affairs!

: Update: The editor in question, also an MP, has a blog (thanks to the commenter)

Stern on Letterman

Stern on Letterman

: Howard Stern mentions my little scoop on the FCC on Letterman’s show tonight: “An ex-TV Guide writer went and researched. Three people complained. Three people.”

Damn. Wish I’d recorded that.

: It’s a serious talk and a good talk. Howard discusses the problem of the FCC and free speech and Clear Channel and creativity. Random quotes:

“This is my way of checkmating the United States government,” he says.

“This guy Michael Powell… he’s telling us what we can hear,” he says. Later: “How can we have a democracy how can we have an open exchange of ideas?”

“My fellow broadcasters are not standing up for me.”

“In five years, satellite radio will be dominant in radio broadcasting.”

On getting satellite radio: “I believe it is a political movement.”

Dave: “In many ways, you pioneered terrestrial radio.”

Howard: “And now I’m here to destroy it.”

On making fun of racists: “I think the show actually has a high moral value.” Dave asks: “Is there a segment of the audience that may not get it… that may have its prehistoric beliefs reinforced?”

Dave: “How come President Bush won the election?”

Howard: “Had I been on in more markets in the country, I believe we would have had an effect on the election.”

“I can’t syndicate my show anymore. Radio stations are deathly afraid of the religious right… and Michael Powell…”

“Bababooey is coming. Everybody is coming over to the new place.”



: I have another theory about Mel Karmazin’s arrival at Sirius: I think he’ll try to engineer a merger with an earthbound radio company — possibly even Infinity (since Viacom is making noise about falling out of love with radio and, as Fred says, Mel’s still in love with it).

: Sirius also managed to buy a spot on David Letterman tonight, as Stern appears ther.e

The danger of the FCC, a continuing saga

The danger of the FCC, a continuing saga

: Reason has an illuminating (which is to say alarming) interview with FCC Chair Michael Powell in its December issue. It’s not yet online, so I’ll do some typing….

: What enrages me most is Powell’s justification for his upsurge of censorship and fines against broadcasters. What’s changed in the last six years? Reason asks. Well, nothing, Powell says, as he explains that they don’t investigate indecency independently but only respond to complaints, and then he adds:

What has happened in the period you’ve identified is indecency complaints have skyrocketed.

Hold on one minute. Skyrocketed? I will, of course, refer you to my little scoop that revealed only three people bothered to write letters to the FCC to cause its largest fine in history (and only 20 more Xeroxed them). That is not skyrocketing. That is not a flood of complaint. That is a few letters from a few crackpots. And on that basis, Michael Powell abandons his once-strong defense of the First Amendment for the sake of cynical politics.

: What frightens me most is that Powell acknowledges it makes no sense to regulate broadcast specially in a time when only 11 percent of Americans get their TV over rabbit ears — yet he won’t say whether that means he wants to try to extend regulation (read: censorship) to cable… and the internet.

The editors of Reason read a quote to Powell: “Rather than continuing to engage in willful denial of reality, the time has come to move forward toward a single standard of First Amendment analysis that recognizes the reality of the media marketplace and respects the intelligence of American consumers.”

Surprise, surprise: It’s a speech of Powell’s from 1998. Now he says: “To suggest that we bend the First Amendment for one industry singularly is to do hazard to our most cherished principle.” And so, which way does this go: No censorship of broadcast? Clearly, that’s not what Powell’s saying. So then does censorship extend to cable… and satellite… and the internet? He’s not saying.

Later, he repeats the nonstatement: “…Do I think that the First Amendment should be less protective of broadcasting than it should be of cable? I don’t particularly.” I take that as a veiled threat. This, too:

Powell: I think it will be increasingly difficult to argue for content-premised legislation for broadcasters only.

Reason: Does that mean Congress is going to extend content regulation further into cable or other traditionally nonregulated areas, or does it mean they give up trying to regulate broadcasting?

Powell: Well, what Congress choses to do is anyone’s guess. But I would say this: There’s an enormous sledgehammer on the other side: the First Amendment and the way courts view it.

Many in Congress are, indeed, trying to extend regulation to cable… and then who knows what comes next.

These people have to be stopped.

: He issues another vague threat, saying that indecency and profanity are “in the criminal code, which means John Ashcroft could theoretically go try to slap handcuffs on you. No nobody expects that, but there’s nothing about that statute that says otherwise.”

So Powell says he’s only enforcing the law and has no choice but to levy all these fines. Then he turns around and says the attorney general has the choice not to enforce the law. He doesn’t even try to be consistent and logical on the issue.

: Reason asks whether the FCC should be shut down. He doesn’t answer that question, either.

: Separately, Susan Crawford responds to my post suggesting that we get a conference together to envision killing the FCC. She says it more positively and intelligently but the moral to the story is the same: We should imagine what would be possible if the FCC were not there making things impossible.

Right v. wrong

Right v. wrong

: Just for the record, I’m still contemplating this and this and will likely recast Denton’s sneaky challenge. Later.