Clear Channel was slapped with a $755,000 fine a month ago for a series of moronic segments aired on Bubba’s morning program that the FCC found to be indecent. So, now it seems like Clear Channel sees Bubba as more of a liability than a profit center.
While I’m glad to see a bigoted misogynist like Bubba out on the unemployment line, I won’t let Clear Channel off the hook as the truly responsible party. CC used Bubba, knowing full well that he would push the legal standards of indecency, figuring that the company could easily fight the indecency fines or at least tie up the FCC in court. CC didn’t count on the major public and Congressional backlash against broadcast indecency brought on by Janet Jackson’s breast.
Poor Bubba is just a sacrificial pig, just like the one he slaughtered live on-air for sick kicks and amusement.
If the current Congressional interest in broadcast indecency blows over without any major impact, then you can be sure Bubba will get a new job somewhere and Clear Channel will install some other racist moron to take over his old slot.
But the indecency craze seems to be sticking around and having some effect, at least for the moment. According to the Chicago Sun Times, the FCC recently upheld fines it imposed against Chicago station WKQX-FM in 2001 for segments aired on the Mancow program. That article also notes that radio giants like Infinity and Disney/ABC Radio have “issued “zero tolerance” directives on indecency to all programmers and on-air employees in recent days.”
Frankly, it would be simpler for me if all this indecency hoopla could really be boiled down to an issue of free speech. If it really were only about free speech, then I’d have no problem railing against the FCC’s fines and rallying to support Bubba, Mancow and their brethren.
But as I wrote last week, this isn’t a free speech issue. It’s an issue about the responsibility of broadcast oligopolies to their local communities. Clear Channel is not utterly banned from having Bubba talk about his dick on the radio — they’re just simply expected to have him do it after 10 PM. Is that too much to ask in exchange for a monopoly over 1200 radio frequencies that generates billions in revenue?
The free speech issue is that the vast majority of people in the US have no opportunity to ever use the so-called public airwaves to express themselves or have the issues and art they care about broadcast to their friends, neighbors and fellow citizens. Instead, they’re blocked out by jingoist overgrown frat boys who verbally beat down and exploit anyone different or weaker than they are.
I’ll defend the free speech rights of Bubba when he defends the free speech rights of a muslim computer science professor to defend himself and other muslims from reactionary racist attacks. Or when a nationally syndicated “shock-jock” willingly gives over some airtime to a dissenting viewpoint, without argument or ridicule, in the name of promoting free speech.
Clear Channel, Inifinity and their army of regional and national “morning personalities” will deserve free speech protection when they start defening the free speech rights of the 200+ million of us who don’t have prime time slots on their multi-kilowatt radio stations.