The Government’s Stealth Censorship Of Howard Stern & His Imitators

I have no problem with boycotts, letter writing campaigns, or businesses like Clear Channel simply deciding to drop radio hosts because they don’t fit the image they company wants to put forth, but I find this sort of thing to be of concern…

“The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted 49-1 to send a tough broadcast-indecency bill to the full House of Representatives, which could vote as early as next week on the measure.

Fueled by growing complaints over indecency, the bill dramatically raises the maximum fines for broadcasting indecent material to $500,000 per incident, up from $27,500.

…The bill would also authorize the Federal Communications Commission to launch license-revocation proceedings if a broadcaster violated indecency rules three times

…Individual performers and networks could also face maximum fines of $500,000 under the bill for indecent speech. In the past, performers faced a maximum fine of $11,000, which has never been imposed, lawmakers said.”

When you raise fines to that level and threaten to revoke licenses you are in effect engaging in “stealth censorship”. By that, I mean that since what is considered to be “indecency” on the radio is very subjective and since the fines are so high, no radio stations are going to be able to afford to continue to carry “shock jocks” once this goes into effect.

Now if the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted to ban “shock jocks” like Howard Stern & Don and Mike from the airwaves, they’d hear shrieks of “First Amendment, First Amendment” until their ears bled — and rightfully so. But even though it’s highly likely that is going to be the EFFECT of this new broadcast-indecency bill, it’s not causing the sort of stir that it should.

Of course, some people, heck maybe even most people, will be applauding if radio hosts like Howard Stern are driven off the air. I know many of you reading this very page probably think “Stern’s a gross, obnoxious, pig who rips on Republicans and Christians. Why should I care if he loses his radio show?” If Stern went off the air because he couldn’t compete in the marketplace or because of public pressure on the radio stations that put him on the air, I wouldn’t care either. But when the government decides to step in and wipe people like Stern off the map despite the fact that they’re popular, despite the fact that they’ve been on the air doing their shtick for more than a decade, conservatives should care. I say that because next time the government might decide to step in and start leveling huge fines on WEBSITES that they decide are “indecent” or radio talk show hosts who they decide are only presenting one political point of view and therefore aren’t being “fair”. Enforcing minimum standards of decency is fine, but we should be very wary of how our First Amendment rights may be degraded if the government gets comfortable with fining popular broadcasters into oblivion…

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