In the weeks since the Super Bowl, the Federal Communications
Commission (FCC) has proposed a record fine for “indecent” material
on the radio, TV networks have gone from over-exposure to, well, no
exposure and the radio world is firing every DJ that doesn’t fit
with our current politically correct world.
And to think, all we had to do was hit them where it hurts – the
pocketbook! Once the FCC proposed a record $755,000 fine for
indecent material on the syndicated Bubba the Love Sponge radio
show, and warned that Viacom (owners of CBS) could face a fine
upwards of $1 million for the Super Bowl halftime stunt with Janet
Jackson and Justin Timberlake, suddenly all the major media
corporations are scrambling to clean up their acts.
But don’t believe this 180-degree turnaround. Because as soon as
the hoopla dies down, these companies will go back to their normal
skuzzy ways and the world will be tilted properly on its axis
In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that I
run the campus radio station, which means I’m too indie for indie.
I don’t like to hear the same song 26 times a day, and I don’t
think that disposable is the sound a band should strive for.
These networks and stations, the ones that air shows like “Fear
Factor” with its gross-out content, the ones that allow strippers
to strip on-air or re-enact sex acts over the airwaves, these
networks and stations suddenly grew consciences?
I didn’t think so.
Please, Viacom, don’t pretend like you really care about
“quality family” programming on your geriatric network, CBS, when
you also own MTV, home to more of Britney than I care to see, and
Showtime, home to such quality family programs as “Red Shoe
Diaries.” Ok, you also own VH1, home of “I Love the 80s,” but
that’s not enough to redeem yourselves.
Sure, Clear Channel, I’m sure you’re very worried about what
children might hear on the air after carrying Howard Stern and
Bubba the Love Sponge on your radio stations until Wednesday. And
Infinity, you’re not in the clear either, since you own the rights
to Howard Stern and Opie and Anthony.
In 2000, Opie and Anthony hosted the one of the most popular
syndicated morning shows east of the Mississippi. Fast forward two
years and they get kicked off the air after pulling a stunt in
which two listeners were dared to and eventually did have sex in
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City while our audacious
hosts gave step-by-step accounts. Makes me shiver just thinking
about it. Infinity, who owns the stations the show was aired on,
was fined $355,000 and fired the two DJs as a result.
After the Superbowl, MTV moved five videos it considered to be
too racy to the hours of 10 a.m. through 6 a.m., including videos
by Maroon 5, Blink 182, Britney Spears and two others. But MTV
couldn’t keep their idealist masks on very long. On Thursday, they
announced that those five videos had returned to primetime.
Pardon my cynicism, but it seems a little convenient that these
media behemoths only started to care about what was aired on their
stations after they stood to lose a lot of money. And this is not
1997, when Infinity ate a $1.7 million fine for lewd material on
Howard Stern’s show. These companies are now on relatively tight
budgets and don’t want to lose any money in the lackluster economy.
We only hear about the big fines. It used to be that stations just
paid the fine and the DJ got a slap on the wrist. Not anymore. A
moral cleansing of sorts has hit our media conglomerates. Must be
something in the water.
Why the hypocrisy, guys? Why even pretend like you now care
about what the children hear or see? Or anyone, for that matter.
All you care about is your money. Come on now, say it with me. I
care about money, and that’s all I care about.
The FCC is just as guilty of playing two-face. On the 2003
Golden Globes, U2’s Bono called an award the band just won “fucking
brilliant” live on NBC. U2 is only my favorite band in the world so
I’m inclined to forgive him, and apparently so was someone at the
FCC, because neither Bono nor NBC ended up facing a fine (the
matter is being reconsidered, but it won’t go anywhere). The FCC
reasoned that since the expletive made it on the air between 10
p.m. and 6 a.m. (that’s east coast bias time, kids), it could
But suddenly, after interest groups came forward and pelted the
FCC with moralist and righteous mind bullets, the very same FCC
turned around and has proposed an increase of the indecency fine
from $25,000 to $250,000 and has demanded that TV networks and
radio stations clean up their broadcasts.
Meanwhile I’m making my own irrational demands. I demand that
there be some consistency in how these fines are handed out! I
demand that everyone be held to the same standards whether they own
2000 stations or 2! I demand that the FCC make clear definitions of
indecency and obscenity that don’t involve the words “reasonable”
or “normal”! I demand that all fine proceeds be given to KCSU! And
finally, I demand a chocolate chip cookie, just for the hell of
Seriously, though, it feels like the world is not right when big
companies who care only about the bottom line pretend to care about
anything else. If this stuck for about 10 years, I might be able to
adjust my reality to the new world where TV had plots and not plotz
and radio had music and not shock jocks. But wait three weeks; I
have a feeling it will all be back to abnormal.
Thea is the station manager for KCSU. Her column runs every