Thursday, July 08, 2004

Howard Stern

I'm no fan of Howard Stern, I think his show is generally pretty boring as I don't really want to listen to people talking about how hot some chick is, or about farts. I definitely find his side kick, Robin, really annoying.

But I find myself listening to it occasionally after Morning Edition finishes. This usually happens on Mondays when I'm driving up to Portland a little late. I hate the standard talk show, and that's all that is on at 9am, except for OPB's classical music on Performance Today. And Mark and Brian just sit there laugh at their own jokes - not funny.

Howard has been more interesting lately, at least on the shows I've caught. They've all been about the new FCC rules on indecency.

Now, I couldn't give a rat's ass if Howard dropped off the air. All it would mean to me would be that I'd have to listen a little more to KNRK or Mark and Brian. Or I'd even stoop to listen to some classical music. No big deal.

But he does seem to be unfairly targeted. He shows a clear example of how Oprah has had at least one show that was at least as graphic as Howard's, yet she's not been fined.

The other very valid point Howard makes is the exorbitant fees that are levied against his show. The fines can be anywhere from $270,000 to $500,000 per offense. While on the other hand, people who take box cutters on airplanes only pay $5000, and people found providing "material support" to terrorists are fined only $20,000! Granted, some of those things come with potential jail sentences. Heck, Kenneth Lay, former Enron CEO, is only facing a maximum fines of $5.7 million. That means a CEO can rip millions of people off, both by manipulating the energy market to bilk people out of money, as well as improperly inflating the value of the company, causing people to lose 10's of millions of dollars, and the fine is approximately the same as if he'd dropped the F-bomb 11 times.

And, of course, there are no hard-fast rules on what exactly qualifies as indecent. The FCC reversed its position on Bono's use of the F-bomb during the Golden Globe Awards.

Supposedly, we, the people, own the airwaves. Yet, the FCC is constantly siding with big businesses, so why should I trust that they'd look out for my interest in the name of decency? Take a look at a clear explanation of how the FCC's regulation of the airwaves impacts everyday people.

And, of course, all of these fines for Howard occurred just 4 days after Howard railed on good old George Bush. coincidence? It definitely follows the Bush strategy of attacking the person and not addressing the issues.

I hope the FCC wakes up and realizes what a chilling effect it is having on the entire radio industry. Even the public broadcasting stations are worried about what might apply to them.

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