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.”