Accuracy in Media

After years of doing nothing, media companies are finally taking their public responsibility to protect children seriously. The outrage over the Super Bowl half-time show has forced these companies to pay attention to the sewage they are pouring into our culture through radio and TV. Congress is now holding hearings into the problem.

Rush Limbaugh has weighed in on the matter, suggesting that a crackdown on indecency might lead to a John Kerry administration pulling his?Limbaugh’s?show off the air. On February 26, he noted that Clear Channel dropped Howard Stern from six of its stations because Stern was “supposedly” indecent. In fact, Stern has already been fined for indecency, and many of his broadcasts are so offensive that we cannot describe them here. Limbaugh tried to minimize what Stern said by noting that there is more harmful material on some cable channels such as HBO. The obvious difference is that Stern is aired on a radio that children can tune into at any hour of the day, and HBO is a premium cable channel that parents or adults have to subscribe to.

Limbaugh then said, “Now if we sit idly by and let a federal government start to define what is okay for somebody to say on radio and what isn’t?and in this area it has to do with decency regarding obscenity and smut and so forth?what happens if a whole bunch of John Kerry-John Edwards-Bill Clinton-Terry McAuliffe types end up running this country someday again and decide that conservative opinion is indecent, decide that that causes violence, decide that that is somehow damaging to the culture?”

Let’s look at the facts: it has been a violation of federal law to broadcast obscene programming at any time. It has also been a violation of federal law to broadcast indecent programming during certain hours. Broadcast indecency is “language or material that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community broadcast standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory organs or activities.” Indecent programming contains patently offensive sexual or excretory references that do not rise to the level of obscenity. Indecent programming may be restricted in order to avoid its broadcast during times of the day when there is a reasonable risk that children may be in the audience.

If a President John Kerry wanted to define conservative opinion as indecent and outlaw it, he would have to change the meaning of the term and change the law. Any attempt to do so would be greeted with outrage and would be defeated. There is no danger of the federal government pulling Limbaugh off the air by claiming his political talk is “indecent.”

It is unfortunate that the action against Stern would be viewed as a precedent for the federal government censoring conservatives. Rush Limbaugh is not threatened because Howard Stern was dropped from six stations. Conservatives should be honest about what is happening here. Saying that free speech is in danger may cause some people to balk at a long overdue effort to clean up the filth that has been on radio and TV for far too long.

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