SpeakSpeak News

Speak to Spellings (sticky)

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 01/28/2005 @ 4:18 pm

James Dobson’s Focus on the Family has sent an appeal to its members , asking them to thank Margaret Spellings for her lesbian-bunny censorship. FoF has graciously provided a web form from which concerned citizens can mail Spellings. SpeakSpeak is grateful; it means less work for us.

The makings of a letter can be found inside.

PLEASE NOTE that in order to send your letter to Secretary Spellings, you must go to the Focus on the Family link. Posting a comment here is great, but posting a comment here won’t send your message to the Department of Ed.

Urgent Action: Write Your Senators (sticky)

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/17/2005 @ 10:44 am

Ask your Senators to vote against the Broadcast Indecency Enforcement Act. The President has vowed to sign the bill when it lands on his desk.

We need to make sure it doesn’t.

Talk to them.

Fight Back Against the PTC (sticky)

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/28/2005 @ 4:34 pm

The PTC has begun lobbying the FCC for maximum fines against CBS and its affiliates as punishment for the February 17th episode of CSI. (Read the very detailed, and very bogus, PTC complaint. Or, watch the clip.)

The CSI episode in question dealt with the death of a Vegas casino magnate who happened to have a diaper fetish. While it certainly wouldn’t have received the PTC seal of approval, neither was it indecent.

Be the equal and opposite reaction. Tell the FCC that OUR “contemporary community standards” were not violated.

Send your letter now from https://speakspeak.org/letter/

(This form letter contains more political opining than usual. This was done as a point-counterpoint address of the PTC’s boilerplate complaint. Please read the letter entirely to make sure you agree, and feel free to change the letter to suit your own opinions. Personalized letters work best.)

Death and Salesmen —They Both Suck

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 06/19/2005 @ 8:41 pm

Please excuse our slow week. I’ve had a death in the family, leaving poor Eric Jaffa to try to reel in the slack.

Thanks to you all for your patience. We’ll be back full force on Monday the 27th.

In the meantime, happy summer.


NY Times Pay Service

Filed under  by Eric Jaffa — 09/19/2005 @ 4:26 pm

If you wanted to read Bob Herbert and Paul Krugman op-eds at the New York Times website this morning, you had to pay.

The newspaper is requiring a $49.95/year fee for access to such opinion pieces. That payment also gives one access to archived news articles.

I understand that newspapers need to find new ways to make money as fewer people get the paper dropped at their doors each morning.

However, I hope the New York Times will eventually amend this policy to provide an alternative of watching an ad for a one-day pass, like Salon.com does.

That would be a better option for people concerned about money or privacy.

Once a person pays by credit card and the paper knows who he or she is, will the NY Times keep records of every article he or she reads?

The New York Times privacy statement doesn’t answer this obvious question.


Cartoon on Language

Filed under  by Eric Jaffa — 09/17/2005 @ 4:29 pm

cartoon which implies Republicans would support animal rights and environmentalism if phrased as animals and tree right to life, among other things

Maybe all these panels are jokes, but it seems reasonable to get conservatives to support universal health care by saying we need health care vouchers for every American.


Senator Stevens Unimpressed By Parental Control Push

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 09/12/2005 @ 10:31 am

One of the names behind the Congressional push for cable and satellite indecency regulation, Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens, thinks very little of recent efforts by broadcasters to help parents use blocking technologies already in their homes.

Here’s Todd Shields at MediaWeek:

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), the chair of the Commerce Committee, remains unimpressed by the campaign unveiled in May, despite months of vigorous lobbying, an aide told Mediaweek. Stevens has yet to disclose what steps he’ll take—whether to mandate a family-friendly programming tier or simply write cable programming into indecency law that now affects only broadcasters. The ball is in his court since the House already passed its version of indecency legislation, boosting fines but leaving cable unscathed.

Cable is left guessing—an uncomfortable stance that could continue for months as Congress focuses on helping victims of Hurricane Katrina and passing the annual federal budget. Kyle McSlarrow, president/CEO of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, last week paraphrased what he’s hearing from Stevens. “‘What you’re doing with parental controls is great, but you need to do something more,’” McSlarrow said. “What’s the ‘something more’?…I just don’t know.”

There’s no end of people with suggestions, including consumer groups that want to cut subscription rates by breaking up the broad channel packages that cable sells (operators say channel-by-channel choice would leave consumers paying more for fewer channels). “We’re still fielding calls from senators and members of Congress who are concerned about not only indecency, but rising rates,” said Kenneth DeGraff, policy analyst for the Consumers Union. “I think as the 109th [Congress] goes forward, we’ll see some movement on this issue.”

As if to show that the issue remains alive, an anti-censorship group last week unveiled research suggesting a link between media size and indecency. Most federal fines for indecency on the radio were drawn by shows aired by four big companies, said the Center for Creative Voices in Media. That could mean limiting size is a better way to rein in indecency than big fines that can chill speech, said the center’s executive director, Jonathan Rintels.

One of the cited companies called that conclusion “ludicrous.” Greater competition, not media bigness, causes racier programs to air, said Andy Levin, executive vp/chief legal officer for Clear Channel Communications.


George W. Bush Can Imprison Anyone Without Trial

Filed under  by Eric Jaffa — 09/09/2005 @ 9:10 am

From Appeals Court Upholds Treating U.S. Citizens as ‘Enemy Combatants’

A decision by the 4th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the federal government’s right to hold an American citizen in custody indefinitely a so-called ‘enemy combatant’ without bringing criminal charges against him.

The case was brought by attorneys for Jose Padilla, am American citizen who has been held in a brig in a naval brig for more than three years without charge after being arrested on American soil.

The government has alleged that Padilla had trained at al-Qaeda terrorist camps and had plans to blow up buildings in the United States. To date, Padilla has not been charged with any specific crime.

Padilla’s attorneys and civil rights advocates said the detention was illegal and could easily lead to abuses by the government who could then arrest almost anybody for protesting against government policy or even taking out the ‘wrong’ books from the public library.

No right to meet with an attorney. No right to meet with your family. Bush can label you an “enemy combatant” and imprison you until the day you die.


BBC Website Will Have Downloads

Filed under  by Eric Jaffa — 08/27/2005 @ 10:09 am

In 2006, the BBC will “let Web users download original BBC radio and television programming from its Web site for as long as seven days after it originally aired.”

I wonder why the BBC doesn’t plan to leave the files up indefinitely, like NPR.

The public benefit would exceed the cost of server space.


Corporations SLAPP Critics, To Try To Get Them To Shut Up

Filed under  by Eric Jaffa — 08/20/2005 @ 12:36 pm

From Molly Ivins:

SLAPP suits (for “strategic lawsuits against public participation") are a serious menace to free speech. The latest example is a real prize: The Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, has already spent $10 million defending itself against a lawsuit filed by Isuzu Motors Ltd. because, eight years earlier, Consumer Reports rated the Isuzu Trooper “not acceptable” for safety reasons. And the case has not yet reached trial.

And that is the real menace of SLAPP suits. It’s not that corporations win them, but that they cost critics so much money that the critics are silenced – and so is everyone else who even thinks about raising some question about a corporate product or practice.

Isuzu claims that CU’s reports are “not scientific or credible,” but the company’s internal memos state that the “lawsuit is a PR tool” and “when attacked, CU will probably shut up.”


Current TV: If You Don’t Like It, Do Something About It

Filed under  by Eric Jaffa — 08/09/2005 @ 6:30 am

I’ve read some negative reviews of “Current TV” and and some helpful suggestions.

But people who own a video camera (or have a friend who owns a video camera) can now do more than criticize or offer advice.

Make a news video and upload it:

Let’s redefine the news. Shoot a story the traditional news media doesn’t know about, or won’t touch. Whether it’s an expose or an interview, your point of view matters — but so do the facts.

Gay marriage. Drug laws. Stem cells. It’s the stuff that divides us — and shows us who we are. Pick a side or bridge the gap, and help us make the abstract real and relevant.

This is your chance to dissect the news. Show us what the media is saying — and how it’s misleading, incomplete, or just plain untrue.

News Current
Here’s where we re-invent the news. Important stories? Check. Point of view? Check. Insatiable curiosity? Double-check.

Pick up on a story the mainstream media doesn’t know about — or chooses to ignore.


The Comeback of the Confederate Flag?

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 08/05/2005 @ 9:54 am

The Dukes of Hazard movie has been hyped so long and hard, it would seem there’s nothing left to talk about.

Ah, but there is. There is!

Let’s talk about the Confederate flag!

With the movie’s release — finally, after a summer of breathless anticipation — comes a new slew of articles about the General Lee and its car-top Confederate flag.

Here’s the roundup.

Cox News (in the Arizona Central):

“It’s an interesting take on the politics of the flag, given all the political debates over it recently,” said Western Kentucky University professor Tony Harkins, author of “Hillbilly: A Cultural History of an American Icon.”

Director and co-writer Jay Chandrasekhar said there were conversations before filming started about not having a battle flag atop the General Lee, considering how controversial it has become, or replacing it with an American flag.

“It’s a complicated symbol,” he said. “I know how some people feel about it, but there were certain things I wasn’t gonna change. I wasn’t gonna change Daisy’s shorts and Boss Hogg’s suits, and I certainly wasn’t gonna touch the car. I felt the flag had to be on the roof. It would have been even more controversial to take the flag off the car.”

Johnny Knoxville, who plays Luke Duke, said there was a little talk about the flag on the set. “The thing is, Luke and Bo aren’t racists,” Knoxville said. “That would be ridiculous. They had it on there as a sign of rebellion.”

Allison Benedikt, Chicago Tribune

Commenting on performances here is like critiquing the production design of a porno–it’s beside the point. Briefly: Knoxville, bad choice, man. Reynolds, you make a good villain. Simpson, lovely posing. Scott, you’re from Minnesota and it shows–but I bet stunt driving school was fun.

The deeper problem–and believe me, there’s nothing deep about this flick–is that Chandrasekhar tries to pass off this whole mindless, mean-spirited mess as good old American fun. An everyman narrator tells us at the outset that “some folks say Hazzard is where apple pie was invented,” and producer Bill Gerber apparently came to this film by “searching for a project that really captures the American spirit.”

And nothing says “God bless America” like uneducated, bar-fight-happy hillbillies with a seething disdain of law enforcement and the aforementioned flag painted on the rooftop of their NASCAR-ready car. (The question my sensitive Tribune co-workers have asked me most about this movie is, “How did they handle the Confederate flag?” And they “handle” it by having the car go in for service flagless and come out with a whole lot of Southern pride, which horrified Atlanta city folk point out to the naive — and therefore blameless — Duke boys.)

Austin American-Statesman:

How are the makers of the new “Dukes” movie dealing with a symbol that’s controversial ?

Directly and with humor.

The movie’s writer-director, Jay Chandrasekhar, told Premiere magazine he planned to acknowledge the flag’s presence “and say, ‘Look, we know the situation we’re in here; here’s some jokes about it.’ “

In the movie, a battered General Lee gets a midnight overhaul from mechanic Cooter, who gives the car a fresh coat of paint, including the flag on the roof.

On the run, Bo and Luke Duke flee in the car to Atlanta and only learn about the flag when a succession of motorists passes by, each offering comments ranging from “The South will rise again!” to “You’re going to be late for your Klan meeting!”

It’s a clever approach, allowing the film’s protagonists to take a beating for their insensitivity, but absolving them from actually painting the flag on the roof themselves.

A later encounter, when the Duke cousins in the General Lee pull up next to a heavily stereotyped group of African American hoodlums, is much more awkward and much less funny.

Kansas City Star:

The Confederate flag “is a symbol of an idea that was terribly, terribly wrong,” and Hollywood is sending the wrong message when it places that flag on the souped-up car driven by the main characters in the new “Dukes of Hazzard.”

So says Kevin Willmott, African-American filmmaker and University of Kansas professor.

In a recent press release Willmott, whose mockumentary “C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America” will open in theaters this fall, said that by placing the rebel flag on the car driven in the film by Seann William Scott and Johnny Knoxville, “a whole new generation of young people will be taught that the Confederate flag is not a racist symbol. Would anyone ever consider having a film with a Nazi flag on the car that the lovable heroes drive?”

That flag “symbolizes a group of Americans who broke away from the United States so they could continue to enjoy slavery,” Willmott said. “I felt someone needed to comment on this … the lack of any serious discussion about the issue is deafening.”

Chicago Sun-Times:

To this day, some people still claim the Confederate flag represents not the slave system of the South but its heritage. But the heritage of the flag is it was flown for the seceded South in its failed attempt to let white people keep their slaves. The flag was resurrected by racists in the 1950s to show rebellion against the civil rights movement. That is awful.

And where is that Confederate flag now? It’s painted on top of the Dukes’ Dodge Charger, which is named the General Lee. Its horn blows the tune from “Dixie.” In the TV show, the all-white characters were once held captive by a mean, black fugitive from prison. …

I’m sure some people think I’m taking the flag and “Dukes” — which, by the way, was a predictable take on slapstick – - too personally. These people perhaps have never been called “Jewboy” — and I wasn’t even a practicing Jew — while hanging out with friends of non-white ancestry who bore much worse. And in our [Georgia] classrooms, hateful stupidheads were validated by the Confederate Stars and Bars flapping on the state flag.

And then, every week, that flag came “Dixie"-ing down the road on top of the “Dukes” car. Puke. Personally, I’m waiting for a good movie version of a less reckless family show, “Speed Racer,” which starred the supercool Mach 5 car, Speed Racer, his monkey, and his hot sister Trixie. Ah, Trixie. Now she was one hot bowl of dumplings.


ABC Banned in Russia

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 08/04/2005 @ 11:40 am

The Russian government has revoked the accreditation of all of ABC’s journalists. The move comes after ABC broadcast an interview with a Chechen rebel wanted by the Russians. Russian President Vladimir Putin has been steadily tightening his grip on the Russian media.

More at Radio Netherlands.


Howard Stern: Pay to Hear Him, Pay to See Him

Filed under  by Eric Jaffa — 08/03/2005 @ 12:39 pm

From Jeff Jarvis:

Howard Stern announced this morning that he’s going to air his TV show — which just went off E! — on cable via paid In Demand Networks once he starts on Sirius in January. Fans will get unlimited access to Stern video for another monthly fee. FMQB has the details.

The FCC and the church ladies made this happen. E! said it could no longer air Stern for fear of regulation (read: censorship). The last safe haven from the nannies is to run behind a pay wall.

Now you have to pay for free speech in America.

People who watched Howard Stern’s show on cable channel E! (video highlights of his radio show) had to pay for basic cable. But now they will have to pay on top of that.

Howard Stern right now is on broadcast radio, but he’s moving to satellite radio in 2006 in face of FCC fines for alleged indecency.

The FCC doesn’t regulate the content of satellite radio, and so Howard Stern will be free to use expletives after he moves to satellite radio.

Regarding the move to pay-per-view cable: the FCC doesn’t regulate the content of cable television. However, Howard Stern often interviews strippers on his E! show, and by custom, nudity on basic cable (but not pay-per-view) is pixillated.

More at the previous SpeakSpeak News article, Howard Stern: Will Fans Have to Pay to See or Hear Him?


Corporate Websites to Teach History to Kids

Filed under  by Eric Jaffa — 08/01/2005 @ 9:07 am

How would a big corporation write American history?

Kids across the country may soon find out, even as they surf the web.

Taxpayers are putting $20 million into this dubious project.

From the Los Angeles Times:

When the Corp. for Public Broadcasting announced in the spring the launch of an ambitious program aimed at expanding middle- and high-school students’ knowledge of U.S. history and civics, it seemed to fit squarely with its traditional public service mission.

But an emphasis by corporation officials on how corporate investors could profit from the project has provoked controversy about the role commercial interests will play in the initiative and hints at new areas of conflict in public broadcasting’s reliance on private-sector support.

The CPB — a private, nonprofit corporation that distributes federal funds to public broadcasters — plans to dole out $20 million in grants over the next three years as part of its American History and Civics Initiative. The money will go to projects that use websites, video games, podcasts and other new media to teach students about history and politics.

To get high-tech companies to participate in the initiative, CPB officials have urged producers to stress the profit to be made as schools across the country are exposed to their products. At briefings about the project, a CPB consultant (James Denton) suggested telling corporations that public television will be “a Trojan horse” to gain them entree into schools, according to attendees.

I have a suspicion there won’t be much about the accomplishments of unions, trust-busting, or workers’ rights at these history websites.


Weighing World Hunger against Foul Language….

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 07/15/2005 @ 9:27 am

Here’s what Philadelphia Daily News writer Howard Gensler thinks of the Parents Television Council’s lates F-word campaign:

The ever-vigilant Parents Television Council has found its new boogeyman.

Live 8.

Yesterday, the PTC filed an indecency complaint with the FCC about ABC’s pre-recorded airing of “Live 8: A Worldwide Concert Event” due to unedited profanity.

Who said the curse word?

That’s right, Abbott.

During the Who’s performance of “Who Are You,” the “who the f— are you” line was aired unedited.

“The program was aired on a tape delay, which should have given ABC ample time to edit all obscenities from the concert prior to broadcast,” said Tim Winter.

Hey, they f—ed up.

Winter went on to say: “This kind of language does not belong on network television, particularly when so many children are in the audience.”

For the record, ABC’s Live 8 broadcast was one of the least watched programs of the week.

Maybe the PTC should take the money allocated toward this silly fight and send some food to Africa.


Please Take a Parenting Lesson from This Woman

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 07/07/2005 @ 11:51 am

From the Department of “Duh!”

Concerned about the effects of video games on her 9-year-old (or, more accurately, the hype surrounding the presumed effects of video games on 9-year-olds), Salon writer Katy Read did the unthinkable.

Get this: She actually sat down with her kid in front of the PlayStation. Why hasn’t anyone else thought of this??

Says Read:

In my neighborhood, where it sometimes seems child-rearing competence is determined by how many mainstream pleasures you deny your kids, video games rank somewhere between toy guns and Twinkies. In many eyes, the medium itself is almost as bad as its message. An acquaintance told me she buys board games for her sons so that “at least they’re not sitting in front of a screen” — as if sitting around a sheet of cardboard were intrinsically preferable. A neighbor forbade her son to touch a video-game controller, though she would allow him to watch as other kids played.

What, exactly, are they afraid of? What was I afraid of? For years, I let my sons play games at friends’ homes but outlawed them in ours. I had grown up just fine without them, and saw no reason why my boys couldn’t do the same. They began pleading for a game system roughly as soon as they could stretch their dimpled fists around a controller, but I held my ground. While friends’ kids upgraded their Nintendos and wore out their Gameboys, my ban gave me a rare feeling of maternal superiority and control. When other parents bemoaned their kids’ gaming obsessions, I could smugly announce that I had never even heard of Super Mario Bros. I might be lax about bedtimes or let orange soda stand in for organic fruit juice. I might pick up dinner at a drive-through while my neighbor’s kids dined on tofu. But here was one patch of moral high ground that I could proudly claim.

Read explores the various theories about violence in the media. It turns some kids violent, some say. Kids don’t take it any more seriously than they do cartoons, others say.

But in the end, Read, unlike too many parents, trustscourse she wants to protect them. “I don’t necessarily believe my children will mimic brutal acts [in video games], she says, “but that’s not the only reason to shield them, when I can, from humanity’s uglier side.”

How’s that for a couple of underutilized parenting skills — trust, and respect?

I want to respect their choices. I don’t want to condemn their tastes just because I don’t share them. How can I expect them to appreciate my cultural interests — to check out the books, movies, museums, Web sites and music that I recommend — if I reflexively scoff at theirs?

These days, I know, parents are supposed to have vehement child-rearing opinions and to stick to them with droidlike consistency. But with video games, as with so many parenting matters, I wind up thinking that almost all the positions — even diametrically opposed ones — make a little bit of sense. And that none offers any guarantees.

So the PS2 stays in the living room.

Please, take a parenting lesson from this woman.

From Salon.com.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) Investigates Scientists for Writing about Global Warming

Filed under  by Eric Jaffa — 07/07/2005 @ 10:39 am

From Democracy Now!:

The Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting that the Republican chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce is investigating three professors whose work suggests that the earth’s climate is warmer now than at any time in many centuries and that increasing levels of greenhouse gases from burning fossils fuels are largely to blame.

In letters to the three scientists last week, Congressmember Joe Barton of Texas demanded detailed documentation about the hundreds of studies on which they were an author or co-author. Barton also sent a letter to the director of the National Science Foundation that requests information about the work of the three professors, as well as a list of all grants and awards in the area of climate and paleoclimate science, which number 2,700 in the past 10 years.

The investigation focuses on studies by Michael Mann, an assistant professor of environmental science at the University of Virginia; Raymond Bradley, a professor of geosciences at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst; and Malcolm Hughes, a professor in the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research of the University of Arizona. Congressmember Barton worked in the oil-and-gas industry before being elected to Congress in 1984. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, he has consistently ranked as one of the top five recipients of campaign contributions from that industry over the past decade.

I wonder what would happen if the scientists were to ignore Rep. Joe Barton.

Do You Want the Government of Iraq to be Secular?

Filed under  by Eric Jaffa — 07/07/2005 @ 9:05 am

Then support secular government in the United States.

From “Protecting unpopular ideas: The principles we push abroad should be upheld at home” by Cynthia Tucker

Just as you might expect, a group of poll-watching, finger-to-the-wind conservative congressmen have pledged to fight for legislation that would allow the Ten Commandments to be posted in courthouses around the country. A pair of recent Supreme Court decisions – one of which struck down such displays – has handed them a chance to seize the low ground on yet another controversial issue.

These are the same congressmen, no doubt, who roar with approval every time President Bush pledges that the United States will help Iraqis install their own version of Jeffersonian democracy – one which protects government critics, religious minorities and criminal defendants. So, if that sort of constitution is such a good idea for Iraqis, why isn’t it a good idea for Americans?

Iraq, after all, has a tiny minority of Christians, men and women who still suffer oppression, even after the fall of Saddam Hussein. They dream of the day when they will be free to worship as they please, without fear of intimidation. Would they feel equal under the law if every courthouse in the new Iraq housed huge monuments of popular verses from the Quran? Would they believe they could stand before a Sunni or Shiite judge and get fairness if the wall behind him posted a declaration from the Islamic holy book?

You’d think that the brutal persecution of the Shiites under Saddam would remind Americans of the danger of mixing government and religion. (Indeed, it is quite possible that Iraq’s new constitution will be one that enshrines Sharia, or fundamentalist Islamic law – an alarming prospect.) The world is full of examples of nations whose antipathy toward one religion or another has resulted in everything from harassment to pogroms.

As Justice Sandra Day O’Connor noted bluntly in her concurrence with the Kentucky opinion, which struck down displays of the Ten Commandments in two of the state’s courthouses: “Those who would renegotiate the boundaries between church and state must therefore answer a difficult question: Why would we trade a system that has served us so well for one that has served others so poorly?”

The columnist, Cynthia Tucker, may be referring to Congressmen Ernest Istook and Tom DeLay in her first paragraph:

From Baptist Press News:

Representative Ernest Istook, R.-Okla., announced from the Supreme Court steps June 30 that he was proposing a constitutional amendment backed by 109 House members that would guard references to God on public property, The Times reported.

“This amendment will protect displays of the Ten Commandments, in Kentucky as well as Texas,” Istook said. “It will protect the words ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance. It will protect the ability for school children to pray at school, individually or together. It will protect our national motto of ‘In God we trust.’”

…(Majority Leader Tom) DeLay expressed discontent with the Supreme Court’s “incredibly confusing” decisions in the past 20 years on the Ten Commandments and the role of religion, according to The Washington Times.

“To base decisions on religion upon a letter written by Thomas Jefferson and having no relevance to the Constitution of the United States gets you into this mess,” he said, referring to an 1802 letter in which Jefferson coined the phrase “a wall of separation between church and state.”

People who want to spread their beliefs about God should do so without turning to the federal government for help.


Brent Bozell Can’t See the Forest for the Liberals

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 06/15/2005 @ 1:21 pm

Brent Bozell is at his bug-eyed best when he’s recursively complaining about liberals’ complaints about conservatives. It’s enough to make you dizzy, no?

In his latest Town Hall screed, Bozell takes the Washington Post to task for taking Fox News to task. (See where this is going?)

In his White House Briefing last week, WaPo columnist Dan Froomkin describes a laughably softballed Fox News interview with our esteemed Commander-in-Chief. “Fair and Balanced” journalist Neil Cavuto threw out such hard-hitting “questions” as

  • [Kerry] was billed as the intellectual, and you had better grades in college.
  • On a more serious note, Mr. President, this morning we got word of an Al Qaeda-linked cell potentially broken up in California. One of the participants in that cell supposedly was taking target practice off a picture of you. What did you think when you heard it?
  • Let me ask you about the economy, sir. Almost any objective read tells you that we’re still doing very, very well. Productivity is very high. Had a strong GDP report. Retail sales are very, very strong. The unemployment rate, at 5.1 percent, used to be considered full employment when Hubert Humphrey was alive. Do you think you get a bum rap in the media on the economy?
  • Do you ever get mad at of your fellow Republicans?
  • Do you think that the focus on Michael Jackson has hurt you?

[Transcript here.]

Yep, that’s some hard-hitting journalism!

Froomkin rightly criticized the interview.

Thanks to Fox News’s exclusive interview with President Bush yesterday, the leader of the free world is now on the record when it comes to John Kerry’s Yale grades, Laura Bush’s presidential aspirations and — yes — the Michael Jackson trial’s effect on public policy discourse.

Who wants to talk about that messy war in Iraq, or the Downing Street Memo? Not Neil Cavuto, Fox News executive, anchor, commentator and Bush campaign contributor.

This is where Bozell got angry. Rather than sticking out his own neck to defend the network’s practices, Bozell invokes “Fox-defending blogger ‘Johnny Dollar,’” whose stated purpose is to “debunk hundreds of anti-Fox slanders and lies.” (Whoa. That must be a full-time job.)

From Bozell:

“Johnny Dollar” noted two problems with Froomkin. First, Bush was asked about Iraq and that memo at a press conference the day before, so would that be the best news-breaking topic? Second, Cavuto is not a “Bush campaign contributor.” According to the campaign-finance search engine at OpenSecrets.com, Cavuto gave $500 each to the GOP House and Senate campaign committees to attend a presidential dinner in 2002. If making a federal contribution was disqualifying, then Maria Shriver should have been removed from every cream-puff Hillary Clinton interview she ever conducted for NBC.*

But a review of the transcript shows that Cavuto’s half-hour interview on his late-afternoon show was no puff job. It was a serious news interview with some challenging questions. Cavuto asked Bush about the latest bust of al-Qaeda suspects in California. Cavuto pointedly noted that Jimmy Carter thinks we should shut down the prison at Guantanamo Bay because abuse charges are “dragging our name through the mud globally.” That doesn’t sound like a softball question.**

And speaking of debunking, here’s ours.

* Maria Shriver has never made a campaign contribution to Hillary Clinton. In fact, during the 2000 election cycle during which Clinton was elected to the Senate, Maria Shriver didn’t make a single campaign contribution.

Okay, okay — but what about her contributions to other Democrats, which may point to a bias that news magazine anchors are supposed to avoid?

A search at OpenSecrets.org — the same website Bozell uses to exonerate Cavuto for his RNC contributions — shows that since 1990, Maria Shriver has made $8,000 in contributions to Democratic candidates (a relatively small amount for someone with her dough).

But wait — let’s be more specific.

Since 1990, Maria Shriver has made $8,000 in contributions to Democratic candidates named Kennedy.

That’s right, folks. Maria Shriver made the unforgivable error of contributing to family members.

** Debunk #2: The Carter/Gitmo bit wasn’t a softball question?

Here it is, verbatim:

Cavuto: Speaking of civil liberties, one of your predecessors, Jimmy Carter, was very critical of our operations at Guantanamo Bay, saying they should be shut down, that abuses there, if proven true, are dragging our name through the mud globally. What do you make of that?

Translation: “Here’s your chance, Mr. President, to bash that hippy-dippy Carter and to defend your administration’s disregard for the Geneva Convention.”

Not a softball?

Bozell concludes that liberals’ collective problem is their insistence that no one should be respectful of the president.

What upsets liberals about Cavuto’s interview is not the questions he asked. It was the tone he displayed — deferential, respectful. Liberals believe [Bush] doesn’t deserve that courtesy, as evidenced by their daily coverage, so often filled with snide commentary.

[He must be referring to the Daily Show, right? “Snide commentary” in daily news coverage? Try “lack of commentary” and you’ll be getting warmer.]

Now, if liberals like Froomkin throw fits when the president isn’t pummeled enough, how do they feel about ex-presidents? Because on the two nights preceding Cavuto’s interview, FOX’s Greta Van Susteren interviewed Bill Clinton with a series of softballs that made no news whatsoever.

Translation: George W. Bush is maligned in the press and deserves a break from having to dodge all those tough questions he never answers anyway. Bill Clinton is a three-horned monster who, although he’s been a private citizen for five years, still deserves to be grilled for the supposed failures of his administration. Come on, libs! Where’s the outrage??

Bozell again:

Van Susteren began by asking Clinton about his chummy relations with Bush “41,” and then asked about political meanness: “What is the catalyst for the mean [sic]?” Clinton, of course, blamed conservatives for their bitter reaction to Vietnam and Watergate, and the rise of conservative PACs. She allowed that vindictiveness to go by unchallenged, and then devoted another five minutes to more questions about meanness and how it’s “strange” to see Clinton and Bush Senior get along, as well as Newt Gingrich and Hillary.


Nobody at the Washington Post or anywhere else offered any criticism of Van Susteren’s soft-shoe through the Clinton Library in Little Rock. That’s because she matched the Standard Ogling Procedure to Clinton interviews. On his paperback-plugging TV tour, Clinton also drew mellow how’s-your-health-and-Hillary interviews with NBC’s Brian Williams, CNN’s Larry King, and NPR’s smitten hosts and listeners.

And when he was on his deathbed, no one held Reagan’s feet to the fire about that Iran-Contra thing. Outrage?

In the end, the truth always lies in Bozell’s pithy sum-ups — that short stinger at the end of his column that confirms that he’s right and we’re not. To wit:

Answer this: When was the last time Clinton was truly grilled by a TV interviewer? I can’t remember. By that standard, doesn’t President Bush deserve a fair and balanced interview once in a while?

And don’t we, once in a while, deserve to have our questions answered?

Guess it depends on who you ask.

Networks Quietly Bringing Back, Redefining Family Hour

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 06/15/2005 @ 11:01 am

Flailing TV nets, desperate to reclaim the hearts of viewers after a rocky couple of years, are quietly populating the upcoming season with “family friendly” programming. Problem is, families don’t look the same as they did back when Cosby reigned.

Here’s the Media Post:

The four shows that were picked up for next season are ABC’s “Commander-in-Chief,” which stars Geena Davis as the first female president of the United States, who must balance family life with defending the free world; The WB’s “Related,” which focuses on the lives of two sisters living in New York — and, ironically, is co-produced by a former writer from the non-family-friendly “Sex and The City"; CBS’ “Old Christine,” starring Seinfeld’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus as a divorced mother of a young son who must contend with her ex-husband’s new young girlfriend, who is also named Christine; and UPN’s “Everybody Hates Chris,” about the youth of comedian Chris Rock.

On the face of it, these shows aren’t a sanitized throwback to “Father Knows Best,” or even “Little House on the Prairie,” one media buyer involved in the family-friendly programming effort said.

“Chris Rock is known for his expletive-laced act, but the show is able to maintain the edge without the harsh language,” said the media buyer. “It’s funny, which will probably ensure its success. It’s also very positive in how it depicts hard-working parents, which is why this qualifies as family-friendly.”

But, fellow soothsayers, will this collection of quality entertainment soothe the naysayers? Smart money says that regardless of how much good clean fun Chris Rock throws into the mix, the complaint brigade at the PTC will find some bit of jaw-droppingly offensive content.

Even the effort to positively portray working parents — divorced working parents — will meet with resistance. The Right would rather pretend that such unpleasantries don’t exist. Or, failing the head-in-the-sand approach, they’d like us to know that these bumps in the road damn sure ain’t funny.

There will always be something to complain about. For some, it’s what makes life worth living.


Buster’s Best Lesbian Friends to Receive “Families and Courage” Award

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 06/07/2005 @ 11:44 am

Gillian Pieper and Karen Pike, the two mom’s featured briefly in the “Sugartime!” episode of PBS’ Postcards from Buster, will receive an award from gay rights group The Pride Coalition.

You’ll remember, of course, that brand-new US Education Secretary Margaret Spellings threatened to defund PBS if they aired the decidedly inoffensive episode, in which animated Buster learns about maple syrup from a girl with a couple of lesbian moms.

Pieper and Pike said they were touched to receive the award.

“As parents, we feel fairly humble about such an honor because we simply did what any mother would deem necessary,” said Pieper. “When bullies come knocking, you stand up for your child’s safety and rights. We acted on instinct. The real courage lies in our children who stood up along side us and fought for their family’s right to be seen and loved by America. That’s courage.”

Story here.

Abstinence Ed on the March

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 06/07/2005 @ 11:13 am

This one from the Saginaw (MI) News.

If you’re a Saginaw Township student, you likely won’t hear about the pill or condoms in health class next year.

At least not from teachers. Saginaw Township Community Schools officials want to cut contraception from the sex education curriculum.

Pending Board of Education approval, students will learn about the birds and the bees in an abstinence-only education program called “Sex Can Wait.”

Human Sexuality Advisory Board members hosted a public hearing Monday on proposed changes to the curriculum.

Fifth-grade students will learn about male and female anatomy and HIV. The units of study include puberty, values and decision making, and “my sexual self.”

Eighth-graders at White Pine Middle School and Heritage High School students will learn about pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, healthy dating relationships and legal consequences of having sex with individuals younger than 16.

Topics such as homosexuality and masturbation are off limits in the plan. Last winter, some parents chafed at the idea of their children learning about such things in school.

From the Canton (OH) Repository:

Some abstinence programs taught in middle schools and high schools in Ohio contain scientific inaccuracies about contraceptives and cite religious belief as fact, according to a researcher who reviewed the material.

Some of the material wrongly suggests that HIV can be transmitted through tears and open-mouth kissing, among other concerns raised in a report by Dr. Scott Frank, director of Case Western Reserve University’s public health program.

“I was surprised at what I found,” Frank said. “Sometimes I found myself shaking my head wondering what decade are we living in.”

He said he wanted legislators to re-examine the effectiveness and accuracy of the publicly funded abstinence programs.

If It Looks Like a Duck and Quacks Like a Duck, It Might Be a Turkey

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 06/07/2005 @ 10:24 am

As FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein launches a campaign against product placement and sneaky ads, some publishers and broadcasters are launching a campaign for product placement and sneaky ads.

Editor & Publisher
reports that newspapers are increasingly relying on “shadow ads” to supplement their revenues.

They’ve turned up on movie listings, stock tables, and sports agate in newspapers – shadowy images of corporate logos, movie characters, or other images that advertisers see as a clever new way to reach readers.

But as more newspapers begin using such advertisements, which are known alternately as “shadow ads” or “watermark ads” because of the way they appear on the page, some newspaper editors are expressing concern that they may confuse readers and even cross the line between advertising and editorial.

Shadow ads have seen sporadic use in newspapers over the past several years, at least as early as 2001 when Universal Studios took out shadow-like ads in 15 newspapers across the country to promote “Jurassic Park III.” The images of flying dinosaurs appeared on tables of agate, or data, such as stock tables. More recently, shadow-type ads have also appeared occasionally on stock tables, movie listings, and sports data pages.

Meantime, CBS Chairman Les Moonves is preparing to inundate viewers with product placements.

“I think you’re going to see a quantum leap in the number of products integrated into your television shows this year,” Moonves told investors at Deutsche Bank’s annual media conference in New York Monday.(From Broadcasting & Cable.)

As Adelstein said during an appearance at a media reform conference in St. Louis, “Undisclosed promotions are not just wrong — they are payola, and they are illegal.” Adelstein also asked activists to complain when they saw inapprproate, undisclosed advertising: “We don’t get any complaints about this sort of thing,” though he suggested it was because they didn’t know it was going on. “We’re going to shut down the fraud that is being perpetrated on the American people by the media.”


Readers Say “Forget Paris”

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 06/06/2005 @ 10:49 am

John Bogert, columnist for LA’s Daily Breeze, shares letters he’s received regarding Paris Hilton and her burger.

Mark Miodovski e-mailed: “The Parents Television Council is taking to the air to protest the new Paris Hilton Carl’s Jr. ad. … But while right-wing watchdogs like PTC’s L. Brent Bozell are predictably up in arms over the raunchy and tasteless promo, one aspect of the story has gotten virtually no attention. That is, Carl’s Jr. is owned by far right-wing ideologue and Republican contributor Carl Karcher. Thus, we have the clash of conservatisms, as cultural and economic conservatives once again come into conflict.

“The traditional religious right sees a culture at risk while the other wants media markets, concentration and ownership unfettered by the heavy hand of the government. Unfortunately for them, they can’t have it both ways. All of which makes Paris Hilton, for the first time, interesting and important.

“Bozell said of the Hilton ad: ‘At this crucial time when broadcasters are under increased scrutiny by … parents who are fed up with current TV content, we would think that the awareness would extend to advertisers. Instead, Carl’s Jr./Hardees have done the opposite and are forcing American families to digest their filth. This is the ultimate example of corporate irresponsibility.’

“In the other corner is Carl Karcher, longtime GOP contributor and funder of anti-choice and anti-gay rights initiatives. Carl was … cheered by the right for his 2004 spots making fun of French military failures. The Hilton spot is, of course, trash and belongs not on TV but on the Internet. For most of us, though, we’ll just sit on the sidelines while conservatives fight amongst themselves.”

(Same thing we said.)

And this from Jean Stephenson of PVE: “You hit a nerve big time with me in your Paris Hilton column. Never before have you made me suddenly burst into tears that keep coming back whenever I remember that last paragraph. You truly are a voice singing in the wilderness.

“Has a large segment of the population given up on really big issues as impossible to solve? Is that why they focus so vehemently on the small stuff? Bernard Baruch, long ago, told us that survival required us to care about and help each other all over the world. And instead we developed the ‘me’ generation. What the bleep are we doing?”

A.D. Delgado had this to say: “With all the bad and evil things going on in the world, this TV ad should not be the focus of so much outrage. I feel the ad is doing exactly what Carl’s Jr. wants it to do, to excite the hearts of some and bring in condemnation from others, eventually to be reported on the nightly news for more publicity.

“With the freedoms I have as a consumer, I vote with my feet and money. If I don’t like a commercial, I turn the dial and avoid buying the product. Here’s a pat on the back. Good job.”

In the Daily Breeze.

The Boycotts of Summer

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 06/06/2005 @ 9:58 am

Counterbias delves into the history of the boycott, and its future — namely, its employment (or deployment) by the radical right.

What do the Walt Disney Company, Proctor and Gamble, Kraft Foods, and the Ford Motor Company have in common?

Answer: England’s Charles C. Boycott and America’s evangelical Christian Right.

By Mel Seesholtz, at Counterbias.


Et Tu, ACLU?

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 06/05/2005 @ 1:05 pm

The New York Times reports that the ACLU’s internal practices may not jibe with its public positions. For one thing, the organization seems to have a love affair with its document shredder.

The debate over the use of shredders is reminiscent of one late last year over the organization’s efforts to collect a wide variety of data on its donors, even as it criticizes corporations and government agencies for accumulating personal data as a violation of privacy rights.

Janet Linde, who oversaw the A.C.L.U.’s archives for over a decade until she resigned last month, raised concerns in e-mail messages and memorandums for over two years that officials’ use of shredders in their offices made a mockery of the organization’s policy to supervise document destruction and created potential legal risks.

“It has been shown in many legal cases over the years, including the Enron case, that if a company has an established and documented shredding program they will not be liable if documents at issue in a lawsuit are found to have been destroyed,” Ms. Linde wrote in a 2003 memo. “If, however, the means for unauthorized shredding is present in the office we cannot say that we have made a good faith effort to monitor and document our records disposal process.”

Bad precedent, guys.

In the New York Times.

Activism=Terrorism, Under New Jersey Law

Filed under  by Eric Jaffa — 06/05/2005 @ 10:32 am

There are activities for a cause which should be legal, activities for a cause which shouldn’t be legal but are non-violent, and then there is terrorism.

Unfortunately, the state of New Jersey is conflating all of these, calling assorted animal rights activities “terrorism.”

From Reuters:

New Jersey is using an anti-terrorism law for the first time to try six animal rights activists charged with harassing and vandalizing a company that made use of animals to test its drugs.

Prosecutors say the activists, who will stand trial next week, used threats, intimidation and cyber attacks against employees of Huntingdon Life Sciences, a British company with operations in East Millstone, New Jersey, with the intention of driving it out of business.

The six, members of a group called Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), are charged under the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, amended in 2002 to include “animal enterprise terrorism,'’ which outlaws disrupting firms like Huntingdon.

If convicted, the group and its accused members face a maximum $250,000 fine and three years in prison.

SHAC argued that the charges are a violation of free-speech rights and it is the victim of a government crackdown on dissent. “This is a frightening step in the Bush administration’s path to war on domestic dissidence,'’ the group said on its Web site.

Regarding the ambiguous reference to “threats” in the second quoted paragraph of the article, obviously someone who threatens violence should be punished. Given the non-violent beliefs of the animal rights movement, it seems unlikely to me that any “threats” were of violence.

What else did SHAC allegedly do?

The group also targeted other companies that did business with Huntingdon. Those firms were swamped with telephone calls and e-mail blitzes intended to clog their computer systems, the indictment said.

Other alleged incidents include overturning a Huntingdon employee’s car in the driveway of his New Jersey home and the destruction of putting greens at the Meadowbrook Golf Club in Long Island, New York, where some Huntingdon employees held memberships.

The Parents Television Council is swamping Carl’s Jr.’s with emails over its Paris Hilton ad.

When SHAC or the PTC send emails, it’s activism. It’s not terrorism.

If SHAC also damaged a golf course, that is civil disobedience.

Those who convicted of civil disobedience should be punished with appropriate sentences, not with three years in prison.

Damaging a golf course isn’t terrorism.

It’s disgusting that the state of New Jersey, where some residents who worked in New York were killed by real terrorism on September 11, 2001, is exploiting fear of terrorism to stop free speech, sending emails expressing their positions on animal rights issues, and civil disobedience — damaging a golf course.

Regarding overturning someone’s car, that could legitimately be viewed as threatening. I’m not calling that “activism.” Sending emails in protest is activism.

The problem is that New Jersey is charging six people with different involvement for both activity that is protected by the Constitution — sending emails — and activity that isn’t — overturning a car — to try to confuse the jury and stain all the defendants as guilty.


Paul Revere the Whistleblower

Filed under  by Eric Jaffa — 06/04/2005 @ 8:47 pm

Many important news articles are based on people telling reporters about unethical behavior.

The term for this is “whistleblowing.”

Ben Stein, speechwriter for President Richard Nixon, doesn’t appreciate the whistleblowing of Mark Felt ("Deep Throat") claiming that Felt “broke the law, broke his code of ethics, broke his oath.”

Ben Stein ignores that everything Felt told reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein was true.

Also, that Felt’s oath was to the Constitution, not to Nixon.

There is a satire at “Opinions You Should Have:”

Paul Revere A Despicable Tattletale, Says GOP

Republicans today criticized Paul Revere for his famous ride, saying that he had violated professional colonial ethics by divulging military secrets in violation of his duty to his lord, the King of England.

“These were sensitive informations about military troop movements with which he had been entrusted,” said G. Gordon Liddy, an expert on ethics in government and a professor at several unaccredited law schools.


War? What War?! Let’s Talk about Paris!

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 06/03/2005 @ 11:06 am

Pasadena City College Courier writer Terrance Parker has just made me feel very, very ashamed.

Let’s see, as I write this the news reports online indicate that civilian deaths in Iraq during May rose by one-third over April. A landslide in Laguna Beach this morning destroyed at least 15 homes and possibly as many as 30. The Michael Jackson trial enters its final stages with closing arguments and may go to the jury Friday. European pundits are trying to figure out what the rejection of the European Union’s constitution by French and Dutch voters means for the EU. What is America debating amid these and other world-shaking events? A TV commercial for a hamburger from Carl’s Jr.

Yes, the Paris Hilton car-wash hamburger video has generated more buzz on the Internet than any of these other stories and issues.

He’s right, you know.


But let’s talk some more about Paris!

Consider who the ads are aimed at. Young American males, probably in about the 16-year-old to 30-year-old range. The kind of guys who buy the “extra-large” and “super-sized” fast-food fare. To them, Paris Hilton is probably very hot. To the rest of us, she’s a pretty young woman without much real talent, lucky to have inherited her wealth because she almost certainly couldn’t earn that much.

Given the fattening-up of Americans in recent years, if you want to protest, complain about Carl’s Jr. actually marketing something that should come with a free defibrillator.

Or complain about the rampant sexism of the ad. Let’s face it, would ANY company in America consider running such an ad with a scantily clad man in the lead role? Nope, not a chance.


Hey, here’s one for the conspiracy buffs on campus: maybe groups like the Parents Television Council are really controlled by the corporations they protest, and used to generate lots of free publicity. The only way to know would be for the self-appointed watchdog groups to stay quiet for a while. Well, I guess we’ll never know.

From the Pasadena City College Courier.

Bentley Succumbs to Inevitability of Paris Sudsing

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 06/03/2005 @ 10:33 am

Luxury car maker Bentley is turning the Paris Hilton/Carl’s Jr. ad into its own marketing opportunity.

John Crawford, Bentley director of public relations in the U.S., told Adweek “when a marquee or brand rises to a high level of visibility in the community, it is inevitable that many will seek to leverage such popularity for gain or benefit.

“Bentley cars have appeared in a variety and growing number of films, music videos and commercials,” Crawford said. “In almost all cases, the choice of Bentley has been that of the independent producers, and whilst Bentley Motors is pleased to witness increasing popularity of its cars, it does not initiate the inclusion of its cars in independent productions.”

Says Edmunds.com, “Bentley said it was surprised to see Paris Hilton washing a Bentley in a TV commercial, but that such an appearance was ‘inevitable,’ given the brand’s appeal.”

If you’re interested in a ride to go with your six-dollar burger, the 2005 Bentley Arnage starts at $197,000.

Now that’s hot!


A Town Struggles with a Book Ban, Searches Soul

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 06/02/2005 @ 11:32 am

The New York Times tells the story of Muhlenberg, PA, where controversy bled from attempts to ban young adult book “The Buffalo Tree.”

By a unanimous vote of the board (two of its nine members were absent) “The Buffalo Tree” was banned, officially excised from the Muhlenberg High School curriculum. By 8:30 the next morning all classroom copies of the book had been collected and stored in a vault in the principal’s office. Thus began a still unresolved battle here over the fate of “The Buffalo Tree,” a young adult novel by Adam Rapp that was published eight years ago by HarperCollins and has been on the 11th-grade reading list at Muhlenberg High since 2000. Pitting teachers, students and others who say the context of the novel’s language makes it appropriate for the classroom against those parents and board members who say context be damned, it is a dispute illustrative of the so-called culture war, which, in spite of its national implications, is fought in almost exclusively local skirmishes.


But the town is not militantly right wing. It is significant that even the more vociferous opponents of the book did not insist it come off the school library shelves (though thieves apparently took care of that). In fact, on April 14, as soon as Dr. Yarworth discovered that an overzealous underling had had copies of the novel stored in the school vault, he ordered them returned to storage in classrooms so it could still be read by students who sought it out.

“I wanted us to comply with the narrowest possible interpretation of the board’s decision,” Dr. Yarworth said.

What followed was a period of unusual activism here.

It’s a remarkable — and classic — story.

In the NYT.

Illinois Library To Require Surfers’ Fingerprints

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 06/02/2005 @ 11:14 am

The Naperville, IL, library system is installing fingerprint scanners to confirm web surfers’ identities.

The library is acting on fears that library patrons can easily impersonate others, and that minors can access verboten material.

While deputy director Mark West acknowledges that some may be wary of the fingerprint technology, he hopes a public-education campaign will help explain how it’s used and, most important, its limits.

“You can’t compare it to an FBI database or anything like that,” says Mr. West.


Still, the move worries some privacy advocates, including the American Library Association (ALA). Just the idea of requiring computer users to identify themselves is troublesome, says Judith Krug, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. “They say they destroy the records…. The problem is that while you can delete them from your mail, you have several layers under there,” says Ms. Krug. “I understand the question [of Internet abuse] and I’m sympathetic to it, but I don’t know how to deal with it. Where do you draw the line?”

From the Christian Science Monitor.


FEC Plans to Regulate Internet Ads

Filed under  by Eric Jaffa — 05/31/2005 @ 7:55 pm

From the Chicago Tribune:

FEC treads into sticky web of political blogs

By Dawn Withers
Published May 31, 2005

WASHINGTON – Web loggers, who pride themselves on freewheeling political activism, might face new federal rules on candidate endorsements, online fundraising and political ads, though bloggers who don’t take money from political groups would not be affected.

Draft rules from the Federal Election Commission, which enforces campaign finance laws, would require that paid political advertisements on the Internet declare who funded the ad, as television spots do.

Similar disclaimers would be placed on political Web sites, as well as on e-mails sent to people on purchased lists containing more than 500 addresses. The FEC also is considering whether to require Web loggers, called bloggers, to disclose whether they get money from a campaign committee or a candidate and to reveal whether they are being paid to write about certain candidates or solicit contributions on their behalf.

These rules would not affect citizens who don’t take money from political action committees or parties.


FCC Commish Takes Aim at Payola

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/26/2005 @ 10:09 am

FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein is calling for an investigation into sneaky on-air product promotions and fake news.

“Undisclosed promotions are not just wrong — they are payola, and they are illegal,” Adelstein said.

He said small-print disclosures that appear in the blink of an eye during program credits “could not possibly qualify” as appropriate disclosure.

An FCC spokesman, David Fiske, said, the agency is “committed to enforcing our existing rules and we’ll respond to any complaints we’ll receive.”

Adelstein, a Democrat, said the issue merits an investigation regardless of whether the public complains. “The simple fact of nondisclosure means that listeners and viewers are not always aware that companies are impermissibly blurring the line between advertising and content,” he said.

From the AP.


Brits Tighten TV Content Rules

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/25/2005 @ 10:37 am

Britain’s FCC-equivalent, Ofcom, has tightened rules on what may and may not be shown on television.

Among the changed rules, “the most offensive language” cannot be broadcast before 9 p.m. — or later if children are likely to be watching. (Unless the offensive language is “in context.") Nudity and sex are likewise limited to after 9 p.m., and must again be justified by “context.” Smoking and drinking “must generally be avoided and in any case must not be condoned” before 9 p.m. Unless in context.

Reports the Times, “Scenes that may give harm and offence, by depicting or glamorising sex, violence, humiliation, distress, violation of human dignity or discrimination on any grounds, including religion, should only be shown if they are justified by the context.”

In the most bizarre rule, “paranormal stunts” such as mind reading and magic shows are to be put off until after the magic hour of 9 p.m.

So what exactly is “context"? Ofcom defines it as “an amalgamation of when the show goes out and on what channel; its subject matter; the programmes shown before and after it; the size and expectations of the likely audience; how far the audience can be warned in advance of what to expect; the amount of offence the show is likely to cause; and how upset someone is likely to be if they tune in accidentally.”

It’s all at the Times Online.


New Generation of Sushi Bar(bie) Shut Down in China

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/23/2005 @ 3:23 pm

Government officials in China have shut down the main attraction at a Beijing sushi restaurant — a sushi bar comprised of naked college girls.

The government said the reservations-only restaurant (which had been pretty well booked) “insults people’s moral quality.” The restaurant manager says he was only honoring an “ancient Japanese traidition.”

From Xinhua Online (a Chinese government newswire).

South Africa Considers Constitutional “Bill of Morals”

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/23/2005 @ 3:07 pm

South Africa is considering amending its Constitution by adding a “Bill of Morals” to stand alongside its Bill of Rights.

The amendment was proposed by the country’s National Religious Leaders’ Forum. It would generally be based on “biblical values” and would be “in line with general religious principles.”

There is no word yet on how violations of the Bill of Morals would be addressed.

“We do not envisage these matters being dealt with in the courts as we still have to agree on whether we would want some form of sanction if one breaches the moral code,” said Ashwin Trikamjee, the head of the religious leaders’ group.

Trikamjee said: “Moral character cannot mean different things to different people. We all know what moral character is about - no matter which faith we belong to. Even those who do not subscribe to organised religion surely recognise ordinary moral principles that have governed human conduct since evolution began.”

From the Independent Online.

Tomlinson Speaks to B&C

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/23/2005 @ 1:41 pm

Broadcasting & Cable spoke to CPB chair Kenneth Tomlinson about life, the universe, and everything. Or, at least, about why he thinks PBS sucks.

Aside from more balance, how can public broadcasting build audience and attract big donors?

Public television is largely lost today in satellite systems and is sometimes difficult to find even in cable lineups. Twenty-five to 30 years ago, my wife and I would set our clocks by the MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour and by Fawlty Towers at 10:00 on Sunday nights. We had four or five choices. Today at my farm in Middleburg, Va., I have 300 choices by satellite.

Hard to find? Hard to find?? Anyone here who can’t find PBS among the channels to which they subscribe, raise your hand.

Okay, moving on…

We need to give people more of a reason to support public broadcasting. We need to upgrade the educational base of our children’s programming so that the educational component is seen as something very, very important to the future of the nation. We need to support cultural programs. We need programs Americans want to support because they enrich their lives.

If that isn’t the best argument for what PBS currently does, and why PBS isn’t broken and doesn’t need fixing, what is?

More of the interview at Broadcasting & Cable.


The Cosby Kid

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/20/2005 @ 1:13 pm

One of the most interesting behind-the-scenes aspects of SpeakSpeak’s site is the record of searches users have performed. Many are predictable ("indecency,” “bozell,” “ptc"). Some are baffling. (One user is determined to find information about the architecture of a building in Chicago. If it’s you, drop me a line; I’m really curious.)

And yesterday, over 100 people searched for information on Alysha Cosby, the pregnant Alabama high school senior who attended her own high school graduation — in defiance of her school’s orders to stay hidden.

Because she apparently struck a chord, here’s a roundup of reports and discussion about the heroic Alabama girl.

ABC Local
The Montgomery Advertiser

Daily Kos
Guerilla Women of Tennessee
I Blame the Patriarchy
The All Spin Zone
The Free Republic
Suicide Girls
The Anticentenarian
Number 2 Pencil
Cake Eater Chronicles

Columbia Journalism Review Tries to Focus the Tomlinson Issue

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/20/2005 @ 10:33 am

While Kenneth Tomlinson’s war against PBS’ “liberal bias” is getting lots of mileage, traction, and other euphemistic momentum, the Columbia Journalism Review points out that most media outlets are ignoring Tomlinson’s primary conflict of interest.

Kenneth Tomlinson is the not only the chair of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, he’s the chair of the US Broadcasting Board of Governors. Never heard of it? The BBG is the government agency responsible for “all government and government sponsored, non-military, international broadcasting.”

That is, propaganda.

Like Alhurra, an Arabic-language satellite radio station broadcast in the Middle East. ("Dedicated to presenting accurate, balanced and comprehensive news!")

Or Radio Sawa, another satellite station aired in the Middle East. (” Radio Sawa seeks to effectively communicate with the youthful population of Arabic-speakers in the Middle East by providing up-to-date news, information and entertainment on FM and medium wave radio stations throughout the region. Radio Sawa is dedicated to broadcasting accurate, timely and relevant news about the Middle East, the world and the United States.")

Or how about Radio/TV Martí — the US government’s official mouthpiece in Cuba? A [translated] message from President Bush on the front page of that site reads:

“I’m pleased to send a greeting to all the Cubans as they celebrate the 103rd anniversary of the independence of Cuba. We honor the bonds, the faith, the religion and the heritage that unite us all.”

Smart money says that these stations have a conservative bias, no?

The Columbia Journalism Review points out that as the chair of the organization that oversees these government broadcasters, Tomlinson has an explicit conflict of interest. And no one seems to talk about that.

As almost all of the media coverage of the CPB case has failed to mention, in his role at the BBG, Tomlinson himself is a “federal employee” – yet he is explicitly trying to direct, shape, mold and supervise public telecommunications in his role at the CPB.

Tomlinson is a political figure in what should be the apolitical role of chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. We deserve better. He should go.


Behind the Scenes of the Montgomery County Sex Ed Debate

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/19/2005 @ 12:28 pm

The Washington Post has a story about a mother who was extensively involved in the Montgomery County, MD, sex ed curriculum debate.

Michelle Turner is a devoutly religious mother with four kids in the Montgomery County schools. She and her husband have created a set of rules for their kids that is admirable within their home.

But did Michelle Turner take the battle too far and impose those rules on the 140,000 other students enrolled in the county’s schools?

Washington Post comes close to addressing the issue, but doesn’t. You be the judge.

“Montgomery Mother’s Stand On Sex-Ed Begins at Home,” WaPo.

Georgia High School Journalism Class Canceled; Newspaper Ran Too Many “Negative” Stories

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/19/2005 @ 11:34 am

A high school principal in Marietta, GA, has canceled his school’s journalism course and shut down its newspaper.

Principal Randolph Bynum claims that the paper focused too much attention on “negative stories” at the expense of stories that might have portrayed the school in a positive light. In addition, he thought the reporting was sloppy.

And, oh yeah, there’s a teacher shortage in the school, and he has to make sure the popular classes like cosmetology are fully staffed.

He may allow the newspaper to operate during the next school year as an extracurricular activity, but not as one students receive credit for.

Student journalists have filed a complaint with the Student Press Law Center.

Story in Editor and Publisher.


Pregnant High School Girl Banned from Graduation Ceremony; Defies Ban

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/18/2005 @ 12:09 pm

In Montgomery, AL, a pregnant girl was banned from her (Roman Catholic) high school graduation ceremony because of “safety concerns.” Alysha Cosby attended the ceremony anyway, announcing her own name and walking across the stage to cheers from the audience.

The father of Cosby’s baby, also a senior, was allowed, without interference, to participate in the ceremony.

From the Associated Press.


Carthage Press (MO): Video Games Are Satan’s Tool

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/15/2005 @ 2:14 pm

The Carthage, MO, newspaper has jumped on the video-games-are-evil bandwagon. Apparently lacking for worthy local news (the category under which this story is filed), the Press actually invokes Satan — and throws in some Bozell for good measure.

If there were a sinister plot out there to turn every human being away from strong morals and a godly lifestyle, I’d almost believe that plot starts with subverting children.

Oh, wait, there is…and the plot doesn’t just start with subverting children, the plot is all about subverting children. If Satan can twist a child’s morals early in life, not only will that child grow to live outside of God’s will, but will teach his or her own children those same wrong things. And then Satan has won not only one child, but two generations, and who knows how much.

Don’t believe that’s what’s going on? Check this out…

A few months ago the Parents Television Council (PTC) released its fourth comprehensive study on their Web site www.parentstv.org, examining the advertising practices of the six broadcast networks – ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, WB and UPN. The study found that children continue to be targeted by studios and video game publishers in their advertising of R-rated films and M-rated video games on network television. The study also found that TV advertisements for adult-rated entertainment are reaching children during the “family hour” – the first hour of prime time – more frequently today than a year ago.

Who said journalism was in trouble?

From the Carthage Press.


New Republic on V-Chip

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/12/2005 @ 8:45 pm

The New Republic explores the strengths and shortfalls of the V-chip.

A recurring point in critiques of the V-chip is precisely this deficit in consumer knowledge. To the PTC, however, ignorance about the V-chip isn’t unfortunate–it’s desirable. Intent on an all-out jihad on the entertainment industry, the PTC sees V-chip education as a threat to its vision. Nothing lets the air out of a scorched-earth campaign faster than a popular, less overreaching alternative. What the PTC fears specifically is what V-chip users and studies like the Kaiser survey have found: that when used properly, the V-chip works pretty well. Indeed, of parents who have used the V-chip, 61 percent found it “very” useful, while another 28 percent said it was “somewhat” useful–hardly the numbers you would expect from a “failure.” Predicated on the idea of parental empowerment, the V-chip offers a narrowly tailored approach that caters to parents’ needs without invoking censorship fears. For groups like the PTC, that narrowness is precisely the problem–nothing less than a cultural upheaval will do, even if it means trampling on the First Amendment.

While not perfect–the ratings do need refinement, useful though they are in their current form–the V-chip is an unambiguous boon to America’s parents. But the PTC continues to live in denial, refusing to accept that millions of Americans find the V-chip beneficial. In a recent column, Bozell called the V-chip a “red herring.” He’s right, of course: For the group’s purposes, it is a distraction. However, if the ultimate goal is to help parents, it is the PTC’s mission to discredit the V-chip that is the red herring. Choosing strident extremism over common sense, the nannies of the right are turning their backs on a perfectly decent solution to the “indecency” problem.

Censorship from A to Z

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/12/2005 @ 8:34 pm

Stevens, Rockefeller, insatiable censorship machine, Bozell, “family friendly,” Laura Bush, horse jokes, Kevin Martin, Buster Bunny, volunteerism, Marjorie Heins, George Carlin, Jon Rintles, indecency regulation on the Internet….

Apparently it never occurred to Martin that parents can always change the channel. Or turn off the TV altogether. Of course, such a radical step would put Brent Bozell out of business, leave Kevin Martin with little to do, and strike terror into the hearts of media executives.

Come to think of it, that sounds like the best solution of all.

Dan Kennedy covers it all.


Springer Opera Not Obscene

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/11/2005 @ 11:32 am

After receiving 16,000 complaints about BBC’s airing of “Jerry Springer: The Opera” — half of which were lodged before the melodrama even aired — Britain’s FCC-equivalent, Ofcom, has determined that the broadcast was not obscene.

Religious groups protested the musical’s Springer-esque poor taste, including a depiction of Jesus in a diaper.

In its ruling, Ofcom said it “appreciated that the representation of religious figures was offensive to some people".

But it said: “The show’s effect was to satirise modern fame and the culture of celebrity. The images that caused the most offence were part of a ‘dream’ sequence serving as a metaphor for the fictional Jerry Springer and his chat show.

“In Ofcom’s view, these were not meant to be faithful or accurate depictions of religious figures, but a product of the lead character’s imagination.

From the Guardian.

Give Me a T!

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/11/2005 @ 10:13 am

Reg Henry at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a few things to say about the vague idiocy that, in Texas, qualifies as legislation. (Reprinted at Capitol Hill Blue.)

I can see why Texas lawmakers would want to put the clamps — or is it burkas? — on their cheerleaders. With their seductive melodic chants and nifty moves, they might unleash the birds and the bees both. Why, innocent young fellows in the stands could be provoked to un-football-like thoughts.

The problem, as I see it, is knowing where to draw the line. One person’s sexually suggestive cheerleading is another person’s nimble athletic maneuver. A good Christian cheerleader, dressed demurely head to toe in an overcoat, must still overcome the paradox that she is a young woman leaping around in front of a bunch of guys. This is not her fault, of course, and she is not to be blamed that she did not take up field hockey.

Still, tasteful cheerleading is a fine line to dance, and it would be a terrible tragedy if a faith-based pep squad were caught up in any sanction aimed at heathen vixens.

And then there’s the Christian Science Monitor, which takes a (predictably) more sober approach in exploring the issue.

In his 12 years of cheer coaching and judging, Eric Howze says he has seen maybe five routines that he felt were too sexual.

“It’s a rare, rare thing,” says Mr. Howze, owner and director of the Southwest Cheer Academy in Safford, Texas. Further, he says, lewdness and provocativeness are all in the eyes of the beholder.

“If I go to a hockey game and in the third period a fight breaks out, and I walk away saying, ‘hockey is violent,’ I have missed three periods of excellent skating, great stick work, and wonderful line changes,” he says. “This legislation is much the same way.”

And even if a particular routine does occasionally cross the line, Howze continues, parents are the ones who should be monitoring it. They are the ones who enroll their kids in cheer schools and watch practices.

“Being in Texas, which is a huge Christian-based state … I don’t feel it is the right of somebody else to come in and do the parenting job that somebody else should be able to do,” he says.

Representative Al Edwards, the bill’s sponsor, wants to bring the discussion back to what he feels is the nut of the issue — that high school cheerleaders are sleazy.

“We are telling teenagers not to have sex, but are teaching them how to do it on the football field and applauding them when they do it,” says Rep. Al Edwards of Houston, who sponsored the bill.

He says that over the years, he has watched cheerleading routines get racier and uniforms get tinier - a “distracting” trend that in his view encourages teen pregnancy, boosts dropout rates, and increases the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.


Congressman Bernie Sanders Speaks Out

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/10/2005 @ 1:17 pm

Our favorite anti-censorship Congressman — okay, the only anti-censorship Congressman that we know of — has penned an attack against those who would impose indecency fines against opt-in, subscription-based cable networks.

In his 2004 inaugural address, President Bush spoke repeatedly about the need to bring freedom and liberty to the world. In fact, he was so focused on the concept that he referenced the word “freedom” a whopping 27 times during the 21-minute speech. I’m happy the president is embracing the concept of freedom. Now if we could only get him to start practicing what he preaches.

Since his inauguration address, President Bush and his right-wing colleagues in Congress have launched a full-scale effort to limit and control the programming Americans are able to see and hear over the airwaves and the Internet. In short, they’re going after your computer, your radio and your remote control.


It is in this context of an overall attack on dissenting opinions that the effort to censor cable and satellite TV becomes truly frightening. This is not simply about cleaning up offensive content; it is about the extreme right wing pushing to limit the free exchange of ideas. The time has come for all Americans who love freedom to let the government know that they don’t want Uncle Sam turning into Big Brother.

Published in In These Times, via Common Dreams.

Ever Hear of a Frisbee?

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/10/2005 @ 12:50 pm

3Martini reports on a recent poll that details these kids today. Specifically, they’re TV and tech junkies.

3Martini’s conclusions:

(1) Most kids who claim they have no free time are full of shit.

(2) The solution to the educational crisis in America is study hall.

Read more.

What the FCC — ?

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/10/2005 @ 11:41 am

Our friends at the Center for Creative Voices in the Media have opened a CafePress store. Where else can you buy a T-Shirt that says “What the FCC happened to Free Speech?”

Buy some swag and support the good folks at CCVM (even though they beat us to it…).

We, the Media People…

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/10/2005 @ 11:09 am

A coalition of over 100 diverse activist groups has presented what it calls the Media Bill of Rights. SpeakSpeak is proud to be a signatory.

Among other things, the Media Bill of Rights calls for

Journalism that fully informs the public, is independent of the government and acts as its watchdog, and protects journalists who dissent from their employers.

Public broadcasting insulated from political and commercial interests that is well-funded and especially serves communities underserved by privately-owned broadcasters.

Media that reflect the presence and voices of people of color, women, labor, immigrants, Americans with disabilities, and other communities often underrepresented.

Read more at the Center for Creative Voices in the Media.


SNL Gets an ‘F’

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/09/2005 @ 1:15 pm

Saturday Night Live got hit by an F-bomb this week. During a musical performance, Daron Malakian, guitarist for the strangely named band “System of a Down” expressed his enthusiasm at appearing on camera.

Although SNL airs after 10 p.m., and is therefore outside the FCC’s “safe harbor,” chatty SNL fans are a-twitter, according to the New York Daily News.


Happy Mother’s Day, Soldier!

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/08/2005 @ 4:05 pm

The Christian Science Monitor reports that moms are involved in a war to protect kids from the attacks of pop culture.

“It’s not even just TV,” says Erika Waller of Brentwood, Tenn., a full-time mom with four kids ages eight and under. “It’s computers and everything.”

A mom can protect her children at home, but it’s hard once they venture into the world, to go to school or visit a friend’s house, says Ms. Waller. Even her two-year-old picks up bad language easily, she says.

Diane Snider of Franklin, Tenn., a full-time mother with two young children still at home, says that even though there was a lot of “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll” when she was growing up, it’s different today.

“It’s probably more intense now,” she says.

She says she and her husband work hard to be good role models. They monitor what their kids watch on TV and teach them to be wary of strangers. “It’s doing the right things, as opposed to saying them,” she says.

The article tends to advocate for parental involvement over government control. Read more in the CS Monitor.

TV Watch: More Grumblings Over Bipartisanship

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/08/2005 @ 1:38 pm

Is it impossible for a group of groups whose differences differ to come together over a single issue?

Seems that’s the consensus.

UPI on TV Watch.


SpeakSpeak Gets Called Out Over TV Watch Membership

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/06/2005 @ 10:29 am

The Seattle Post Intelligencer has an article about the strange-bedfellowness of the TV Watch coalition. In it, SpeakSpeak gets chastised (rather gently) for signing on to the group. Here’s what the P.I.’s TV critic Melanie McFarland has to say:

Of course, some people are going to question how a group like SpeakSpeak.org, a blogger site formed to battle right-wing influence over the media, can in good conscience bed down with The Media Institute, which has accepted sizable donations from controversial conservative Richard Mellon Scaife. Or how The Creative Coalition can join hands with Frank Luntz, the GOP pollster known for shaping doublespeak into administation talking points, who conducted TV Watch’s poll alongside Peter D. Hart Research Associates.

And here’s what we have to say (even though we haven’t been officially asked).

First, thanks for the mention. Most media outlets ignored our participation – maybe because they’d never heard of us; maybe because we’re grassroots (i.e., we’re YOU), and that makes us easy to dismiss; or maybe because we’re the pipsqueak kid sister in the coalition family. Who knows? In any case, it’s nice to finally be included, because we feel that our members are a very important part of the coalition. We are, in fact, the Just Folks whose support TV Watch will need in order to be successful.

Second – we were not informed of the other coalition members’ identities until the press was informed of the other coaltion members’ identities. We didn’t know how many there would be, nor their political leanings, nor their hat sizes. And on reflection, I’m really grateful for that. Had I known that SpeakSpeak would ever be included on a list with Grover Norquist, I probably would have said ‘no way.’

And that would have been petty.

Here’s the deal. Coalition members were asked to sign on to the coalition’s three guiding principles:

1) Americans should determine what is seen and heard in their own homes, based on their own personal tastes.

2) The television industry should rate programs, advise viewers about the content they are about to see, as well as promote awareness of the tools and information that allow parents to exercise control at home (v-chip in your television, parental controls on cable and satellite, television ratings, parental involvement).

3) Either we take responsibility for what our children watch or the government will decide what all of us can watch.

What’s not to love? We think those are pretty reasonable. And we think – as we’ve said all along – that this indecency debate is one where true liberals and true conservatives should agree. There is common ground here, boys. The common ground is the icky taste that government control of TV leaves in our mouths, whether you’re a Green Party ‘Deadwood’ fanatic or a Grover Norquist small-government conservative.

McFarland also takes issue with the poll numbers released by TV Watch during its launch:

Even if TV Watch’s view is shared by millions who just want Bozell and his minions to leave their “Desperate Housewives” and “The Shield” well enough alone, the wildly divergent politics involved still makes one question the figures upon which the group is hanging its crusade.

This is not to say the organization’s claim that almost 66 percent of Americans believe that the indecency dispute is actually depriving them of content they want to see is specious. Who isn’t sick of the ruckus? And sure, 91 percent of Americans, when prompted correctly, probably will tell you that, to quote the survey, “the sensitivities of a few should not dictate the choices for everyone else.”

Compare this data to recent numbers released by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. The Pew study found that 48 percent of Americans fear undue restrictions on the entertainment industry, versus the 41 percent who consider the industry’s production of harmful content to be the true danger. Even so, 75 percent of respondents favor tighter enforcement of government rules on content airing while kids may be watching, saying they back the anti-decency proposals before Congress – proposals that are in themselves bipartisan efforts.

The implication is that the numbers have been massaged. (As she opines above, the study’s lead pollster is known for “shaping doublespeak into administation talking points.")

I don’t disagree.

Let’s be honest: Polls are bullshit. We all know this. But we all use them, when we can, because they legitimize what we feel in our hearts to be true. This is true for righties and lefties alike. I could cruise through the Starbucks in which I’m currently sitting and, depending on how I phrased the question, prompt 68% of latte drinkers to agree that Brent Bozell is either a red-headed sideshow act or the second coming of Christ.

Polls – they lend credibility, and they don’t. They don’t, and they do. We like them, and we hate them. Depends on the mood, and the fact being “proven.”

That said, it’s nice to finally have one that justifies what you and I believe and leaves Bozell out in the sideshow cold.

Anyhow, rant aside, here’s the point: We all need to come together on this. The coalition needs to focus on only this problem, and on how to fix it. We need to avoid being derailed by the dozens of other issues on which we inevitably disagree – in a most nuclear fashion, no doubt.

The Unfortunate Truth of TV Watch is that its labor and delivery required network seed money. This money will maybe able to do what SpeakSpeak has been trying to do on $5 and $10 donations. But that’s the reality of the situation. It takes money to fight money.

And we’re here now. So put the politics aside and let’s do it.

Acknowledge the common ground – and on everything else, look the other way. Participation in this joining of forces doesn’t necessitate “bedding down” with anyone.

And thank god for that.


Bozell Dismisses TV Watch As “Network Hired Gun”

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/04/2005 @ 9:11 pm

Brent Bozell has dismissed the bipartisan TV Watch coalition (which includes SpeakSpeak) as a “network-bought hired gun.

Point 1: TV Watch aims to end government restriction on TV content.

Point 2: TV Watch, according to what we were told when we agreed to join the coalition, has not and will not take an official position on a la carte programming. It is accepted that coalition members will likely not reach a consensus on the issue.

Point 3: If TV Watch is a “network-bought hired gun,” we didn’t get the memo. Will someone please forward it, along with the check? Thanks! (And if there are any open positions for an anti-PTC hired gun, give us a call!)

TV Watch Launches

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/04/2005 @ 8:42 am

[As it happens…]

The TV Watch Coalition, of which SpeakSpeak is a member, has officially launched. TV Watch endorses personal responsibility, is working to prevent government restriction on TV content, and aims to educate parents on parental control technologies already available to them.

During a conference call, participants discussed a survey conducted by pollsters Frank Luntz and Geoff Garin.

Says Frank Luntz: “It is so overwhelming that the public wants to make the decisions themselves.” Luntz remarks that yes, people are frustrated, sometimes the issue is a bit overwhelming, but people want to be in control themselves.

Luntz also says that two thirds of respondents claim that recent events deprived them of content choices because broadcasters were nervous.


Executive Director Jim Dyke says education will take precedence over lobbying. This means YOU STILL NEED TO SPEAK UP.


Adam Thierer: The Parents Television Council and American Family Association are having a disproportionate influence, they’re creating a new reality that doesn’t really exist. “Just because you have “parents” in the name of the group doesn’t mean you speak for all of them.”


Journalists are taking TV Watch reps to task for not more directly addressing a family tier of programming, or “a la carte” programming. TV Watch director Jim Dyke says TV Watch is focused more on parental control and education.

Theirer: Family friendly programming is another form of governmental control, “censorship by another name.” The government “would be in the position of defining ‘family friendly.’ I would think that many Americans would find that a disturbing option.”


Jim Dyke says he has not yet heard from the PTC, but hopes to have a lively debate with them.


Journalists are asking TV Watch reps whether the media companies are behind this initiative – to which I’d like to say we were here first!

The TV Watch site hosts a petition that supports consumer choice in lieu of government control. Please sign it.

More as it happens….

Most Americans Want Warnings, Not Restrictions

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/04/2005 @ 8:02 am

A new poll conducted by the TV Watch Coalition** shows that the vast majority of Americans favor content warnings over content restrictions.

According to the poll, 85% said they preferred parents to exercise control over what they watch instead of the government, and 89% said they believed parents would do a better job protecting their children from indecent material on television and radio. (A measly 10% would opt for government control.)

From Reuters.

**SpeakSpeak is a member of this bipartisan coalition.


Mom Rules the Remote, Study Finds

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/03/2005 @ 10:02 am

A marketing study has found that most mothers of kids under 14 regularly make decisions regarding their children’s TV viewing habits. According to the study, a whopping 92% of mothers of kids eight and under say just say ‘No’ to some programs, while 71% of 13- and 14-year-olds’ moms utilize the remote with abandon.

Will someone please send this to Bozell?

From Business Wire.

Stevens, Brownback Vie for FCC Patronage

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/03/2005 @ 9:58 am

Senators Ted “Wash Their Mouths Out” Stevens and Sam “Spank ‘em” Brownback are both lobbying for their proteges to be appointed as FCC commissioner. One commission seat was left vacant by the resignation of former chair Michael Powell.

Stevens is pushing for Christine Kurth, a staff member on Steven’s Senate Commerce Committee. Brownback is putting his money on Howard Waltzman, who previously worked for Brownback for six years.

Billboard Radio Monitor reports that after Waltzman left Brownback’s employ in the Senate, he

…then moved to the House side in 2002, where he became Chief Telecommunications Counsel for the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Unmentioned in the announcement is that Waltzman also worked for Empower America, whose board of directors includes high-profile right-wingers William Bennett and Jeanne Kilpatrick. He was also press secretary for Newt Gingrich confidante, former Rep. Gary Franks, R-Conn.

Waltzman was one of the architects of the House version of the Broadcast Decency Act, which would hike broadcast indecency fines to $500,000.

Cable Guy: Self-Regulate, Or Go a la Carte

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/03/2005 @ 9:32 am

Michael Willner, chairman of cable company Insight Communications (which ranks 9th among cable firms), told the Cable Television Public Affairs Association that cable needs to buck up in a hurry. The choices, he said, were to self-regulate a little more proactively, or be subjected to an “a la carte” cable packaging system.

Participants in the panel then chatted about what makes “family friendly” family friendly. Who defines it? How do the cable companies create such a package? Turns out it’s trickier than it sounds.

When an audience member asked the panel why the industry did not create a family-friendly tier, there was general agreement that a) it is virtually impossible to define family-friendly–Lee pointed out that her son watches MTV, which she considers family-friendly, while others might not–and b) subscribers are already able to create their own tiers of service using the channel blocking technologies available.

Put content controls in the hands of parents, said Cox COO Patrick Esser, and let them parent. Esser said the company was open to tiers if he thought it was what the viewers wanted, but suggested they can use that content control to make their own tiers.

Henry Schleiff, head of Court TV, agreed with Lee that one person’s family may not be the next’s and that defining what would go in a family-friendly tier is problematic, pointing out that before the Super bowl, noone would probably have argued with putting the Super Bowl in a family-friendly tier.

From Broadcasting & Cable.


Monday Morning Housekeeping

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/02/2005 @ 9:29 am

Our site received over 5000 bits of “comment spam” overnight – stuff like “Buy [insert prescription drug] online!”

We’ll be taking the morning off to delete, delete, delete.


California Columnist: I Love TV, and I’m Proud

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 04/29/2005 @ 9:54 am

Modesto Bee TV columnist Marijke Rowland proudly admits her fondness for TV.

I’ve watched TV all my life. I watched it as a child. I watched it in high school. I watched tons of it in college. I watch it now, as a working professional.

I plan to keep watching it until they implant a receptor chip in my head, and then I’ll just dial my brain over to catch new episodes of “CSI: Mars.”

I love television. There, I said it. Heck, I own four of them.

It makes me happy, most of the time. I can’t say I don’t grumble at it. And I can’t say that my mind doesn’t go numb at times when, say, watching Verne “Mini Me” Troyer find new and unusual places to pee on the “Surreal Life.”

But just because I watch and enjoy television doesn’t make me less in touch with my loved ones. It doesn’t make me less interested in the world. And it certainly doesn’t make me less intelligent. They are not mutually exclusive.

Television has become the favorite whipping boy of cultural watchdogs who say it leads to violence, obesity and overt sexuality.

But that argument leads us right back to the old chicken and the egg dilemma. Did TV make us how we are today, or did how we are make TV what it is today?

Turn off the what? Modesto Bee


ACLU Exploring Suit on Indecency Crackdown

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 04/28/2005 @ 9:34 am

It’s buried in a CNN story about the money aspect of the indecency crackdown, but it’s in there.

An ACLU lawyer says it’s “very likely” that the group will challenge the indecency wars in court.

The Brewing Battle Over Indecency, CNN.

NBC Agrees to Content Ratings

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 04/28/2005 @ 9:19 am

The last network hold-out against TV content ratings, NBC, has relented.

NBC had taken issue with the content description ratings– ‘V’ for violence, ‘L’ for language, etc. – because they believed the descriptors tromped on the First Amendment. NBC had been airing age-based ratings, however (TV-PG, TV-14, M, etc.).

NBC says it will immediately begin airing the content descriptors.

“Eight years ago, when content descriptors were first implemented, we questioned if they would cause more confusion than they would help. While we believe the descriptors still post certain challenges with respect to consistency with how various networks define them, we are willing to participate, given the broad consensus of the industry to use them. We will do our best to implement classification procedures that make them as accurate and consistent as possible so that they can become a useful resource of additional information about programs for our viewers.”

NBC had received a special tongue-lashing from Brent Bozell over the content descriptor issue.

From Broadcasting & Cable.


When Does Regulation Become Censorship?

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 04/27/2005 @ 9:46 am

No new news here, but at least they pose the question.

A ban on TV indecency is the latest rage – but will it turn into censorship? from the Associated Press (in the Detroit News)

Orlando Sentinel: Kids Are Buttheads, and It’s TV’s Fault

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 04/27/2005 @ 9:40 am

It’s official.

Television is to blame for all of the unpleasantries of adolescence – and all the unpleasantness of adolescents.

It must be true. It’s in the newspaper.

Though most TV watchdog groups fret about violence and sex on television, some parents say they’re increasingly concerned about TV’s attitude problem. From cartoons to sitcoms, the stars are now sassy children who deliver flip one-liners, put down authority figures and revel in a laugh track.

And their attitudes are contagious. Formerly polite kids are smart-alecky, eye-rolling and harrumphing, just like the kids on television. In Jean and Brian Martin’s Longwood home, that behavior came to a quick halt after Jean began paying close attention to her children’s TV diet. What she found were shows full of wiseacre kids and nonexistent (or worse, dumb) parents.

Not So Funny, Orlando Sentinel


Barnhart Says “Remember the V-Chip”

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 04/26/2005 @ 10:20 am

TV Barn’s Aaron Barnhart urges TV watchers (especially parents) to remember that good ol’ parent’s helper, the V-Chip.

At TV Barn.


PBS Politicized

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 04/25/2005 @ 8:09 am

In an era of FCC fines and Republican control of the government, PBS finds itself undergoing some odd changes. Some within the organization are worried.

Ken Tomlinson, the chair of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting – PBS’s parent – has called the criticism “paranoia,"and said critics of CPB’s initiatives should “grow up.”

PBS Scrutiny Raises Political Antennas, Washington Post.

Turn It Off

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 04/25/2005 @ 7:53 am

Happy Monday, and happy TV Turnoff Week.

Sponsored by the TV Turnoff Network, TT Week aims to get adults and children away from the tube and involved in more worthwhile activities. One of their programs, “More Reading, Less TV,” advocates for, well, you know. The group’s site also includes suggestions for alternative activities – including volunteer opportunities, environmental actions, exercise and fitness, and political participation.

The group wins extra SpeakSpeak points for the statement it issued in reponse to The Nipple: “The more than 1,000 hours that the average school child will spend in front of the television this year will harm him or her far more than the one second of Janet Jackson’s breast.”

And best of all, the TV Turnoff Network will receive a portion of the sale proceeds from TV B-Gone, a keychain-sized remote that turns off any television – up to 50 feet away. Buy one today to support TV Turnoff Week.

Everything Bad Is Good Again

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 04/25/2005 @ 7:23 am

The New York Times Magazine has excerpted a piece from the upcoming book “Everything Bad Is Good For You: How Today’s Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter,” by Steven Johnson.

In it, Johnson argues that while it is commonly alleged that pop culture pap makes us dumb and dumberer, today’s pop culture fare actually requires much more analysis and intelligence to digest than, say, “Leave It To Beaver.”

For decades, we’ve worked under the assumption that mass culture follows a path declining steadily toward lowest-common-denominator standards, presumably because the ‘’masses'’ want dumb, simple pleasures and big media companies try to give the masses what they want. But as that ‘’24′’ episode suggests [described in the preceding paragraph], the exact opposite is happening: the culture is getting more cognitively demanding, not less. To make sense of an episode of ‘’24,'’ you have to integrate far more information than you would have a few decades ago watching a comparable show. Beneath the violence and the ethnic stereotypes, another trend appears: to keep up with entertainment like ‘’24,'’ you have to pay attention, make inferences, track shifting social relationships. This is what I call the Sleeper Curve: the most debased forms of mass diversion – video games and violent television dramas and juvenile sitcoms – turn out to be nutritional after all.

I believe that the Sleeper Curve is the single most important new force altering the mental development of young people today, and I believe it is largely a force for good: enhancing our cognitive faculties, not dumbing them down.

Fascinating read, at the NYT Magazine.


Broadcast Industry Wants to Regulate Itself

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 04/20/2005 @ 9:09 am

From the National Association of Broadcasters shindig in Vegas, TV execs are asking the government to let the industry police itself.

We are saying to the government, ‘Let us have a crack at this and see if we can self-regulate,” LIN Television Chairman Gary Chapman said Tuesday during a National Association of Broadcasters convention panel in Las Vegas. “We’d rather be self-regulated than government regulated,” he said.

(Well, who wouldn’t?)

Some editorializing from SpeakSpeak:

Though self-regulation of TV isn’t as bad of an idea as self-regulation of, say, coal-burning power plants, it’s still a solution that solves nothing. Self-regulation is what incited the crisis of conscience that led 66 ABC affiliates to pull “Saving Private Ryan” from their Veteran’s Day lineups. Self-regulation puts the broadcasters in the position of self-censoring. Groups like the Parents Television Council will still find ways to bat around broadcasters’ decisions like a political shuttlecock.

Anyway, Hearst-Argyle TV CEO David Barrett finally said something to that effect at the conference: “What we aren’t focusing on yet is [that] inappropriate and indecent content is still protected content. We have to be very careful not to let our government start making content decisions.”

More at Broadcasting & Cable.

We Like Censorship? Yes, and We Hate It Too!

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 04/20/2005 @ 8:42 am

A study released by the Pew Research Center points out the puzzling conflicts inherent in the indecency debate.

The study shows that most people are concerned about TV indecency, but that most aren’t personally offended. Many want tighter enforcement of existing rules, but more worry about too much government intrusion.

Asked which is the bigger danger, government intrusion beat indecency 48 to 41 percent. But Pew says 75% are in favor of tighter government control during hours when kids might be watching.


Most Americans say parents are primarily to blame when children are exposed to explicit sex or graphic violence. Fully 79% say inadequate parental supervision ­ rather than inadequate laws ­ is mostly responsible for children being exposed to that sort of offensive material; there are no significant political or religious differences on this point. And by more than ten-to-one (86%-8%), the public believes that parents, rather than the entertainment industry, bear the most responsibility for keeping children from seeing sex and violence in TV and movies.

In the end, Pew finds this: “The tug of war in public opinion about government regulation of entertainment reflects political and religious divides about the issue.”

So it really is a culture war.

There much more, and it’s interesting. Read the study in its entirety at the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, or read the abridged report at Ad Age.


Broadcasters Meet in Vegas

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 04/18/2005 @ 8:36 am

The National Association of Broadcasters will hold its annual conference in Sin City this week. Indecency and its regulation will be one of the prime topics, although FCC chair Kevin Martin canceled his appearance at the last minute because of the death of his father.

Participants will be holding a “town hall” style meeting on indecency on Tuesday morning.

More at the Houston Chronicle.


Hullabaloo: Kids These Days!

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 04/14/2005 @ 9:31 am

It is the circle of life.

Every generation of kids is in danger of crossing the line, according to its parents. Flappers? Rock ‘n rollers? Tony and Maria? ‘South Park’ devotees?

It’s always something.

Hullabaloo’s Digby digs deeper.

China’s Censors Censor China

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 04/14/2005 @ 8:54 am

A group of Western researchers have found that China’s official internet censors are finding easy success. The government’s sensitive subjects – the Tiananmen Square demonstrations, Falun Gong, Mr. Dalai Lama – are off-limits to net users.

The study, which evaluated China’s Internet practices over the past year, found the government employed an aggressive array of tactics, including blocking certain keyword searches and whole Web sites, and forcing cyber-cafes to keep records of users and the Web pages they visit.

“China operates the most extensive, technologically sophisticated and broad-reaching system of Internet filtering in the world,” the study said.


Companies such as Cisco and Google Inc. have been accused of aiding China’s censorship by tailoring their products to suit the government’s needs. The study did not confirm those allegations, which the companies have denied.

Some reports on Chinese censorship also claim that the country has as many as 30,000 “Internet police” dedicated to the task, but the study did not confirm that estimate. Still, it identified 11 government agencies that share responsibility for controlling Internet use in the country.

In the Washington Post.

Salon on Indecency and Consolidation

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 04/14/2005 @ 8:44 am

Salon has a detailed article on the relationship between two of the biggest elephants in the FCC’s living room: indecency and media consolidation.

Our ally Jonathan Rintels is a featured voice in the article.

What may be additionally frustrating for activists who worked on the same side as Copps and Adelstein during the consolidation battle is that the two FCC commissioners first embraced the indecency issue via the media ownership debate. At the time, they argued that as fewer and fewer corporations bought up more and more programming outlets, there would be a race to the bottom in content, and that without hands-on local owners, radio and television stations would no longer have a sense of community standards, leading to an increase in indecent programming. Both Democratic commissioners urged Powell to order a study of that possibility. In a 2002 written statement to the press, Copps wondered, “Has consolidation led to an increase in the amount of indecent programming? When programming decisions are made on Wall Street or Madison Avenue, rather than by local broadcasters on Main Street, does indecency grow more pervasive? We must answer these questions before the Commission votes on whether to eliminate our media concentration protections this spring.”

That rationale struck a chord with cultural conservatives, who were already protesting raunchy content and distrustful of allowing major media empires to expand. Even today, on the Parents Television Council home page, right next to the “Broadcast Indecency” banner, visitors can learn more about the issue of “Media Ownership/Localism.”

“I sat two chairs away from [PTC’s] Brent Bozell and testified alongside him” at congressional hearings on media consolidation,” recalls Rintels. “I could’ve written his comments and he could’ve written mine. We see a link between ownership and indecency,” he says.

In the end, Copps and Adelstein were not able to get Powell to look into the “consolidation equals indecency” angle of the ownership debate. And Martin himself quietly sided with Powell in voting for relaxing the ownership rules. (It will be interesting to see if Martin, as Powell did before him, tries to keep separate the issues of consolidation and indecency.)

Read the piece at Free Press or Salon.com.


Atlanta Columnist to ‘Decency’ Crusaders: “Take a Cold Shower”

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 04/13/2005 @ 9:26 am

Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Bob Barr thinks the indecency madness is overkill.

I know, I know: The public “owns” the airwaves, and I suppose many would argue that means their representatives in government can do with them whatever they want. But should there be criminal penalties for cleavage, or for the bathroom humor so prevalent in today’s programming? Do we really want FBI agents in Washington as the arbiters of what constitutes “indecency” in Albuquerque, New Mexico or State Center, Iowa?

Let’s back up for a moment, and define exactly what it is we’re talking about. “Indecency” is not “obscenity” and it is not “pornography,” the dissemination of either of which already subjects one to criminal sanctions. Obscenity and pornography include all the stuff you might expect.

Furthermore, obscenity requires actual visual depictions of “patently offensive” sexual conduct, and it must appeal to a “prurient interest” and lack “serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.”

In other words, though it may be a somewhat subjective test, it is generally understood what pornography or obscene material is. “Indecency,” however, is far more of a moving target. It can apply to mere talk about sex or bodily functions that fails to comport with “contemporary community broadcast standards.” This ultravague definition really does mean “indecency” is in the eye of the beholder or the ear of the listener.

‘Indecency’ obsession amounts to overkill, AJC. (Registration required, or use BugMeNot.)


Sharpton Calls Town Meeting to Discuss Rap and Violence; Verbal Violence Ensues

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 04/12/2005 @ 9:03 am

The Rev. Al Sharpton held a public meeting in NYC to give concerned citizens a chance to discuss the intersect between rap music and real-life violence. (Sharpton entered the fray after a recent shoot-up between rival rappers outside a New York radio station.)

The meeting, however, devolved into a war of words between competing stations, with two DJs ganging up on a third no-show DJ. “Some people talk a lot, jump on the soap box, then don’t show up,” said morning host Miss Jones of Hot 97. “Scared.”

Miss Jones also took aim at the right reverend: “We’ve supported every cockamamie scheme of his over the years. Now he’s putting all this on Hot-97. It’s not one station’s fault for everything. We don’t tell artists if they’re going to [shoot someone], do it in front of Hot-97.”


The ‘Indecency’ Connection

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 04/11/2005 @ 12:51 pm

Tuesday’s episode of NPR’s “The Connection” will feature a debate on indecency. Going head-to-head will be our pal Jonathan Rintels from The Center for Creative Voices in the Media (also a member of SpeakSpeak’s Advisory Board) and an unnamed representative of the American Family Association.

Should be good fun. Give ‘em hell, Jon.

Check for local broadcast times, or listen online at 10 a.m. (Eastern).


ACLU: Students’ Gay Rights T-Shirts Censored

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 04/06/2005 @ 9:28 am

The ACLU is suing two high schools that punished students for wearing T-shirts in support of gay rights.

In Missouri, the ACLU filed a lawsuit in federal court against a high school that twice punished a student for wearing t-shirts expressing her support for gay rights. LaStaysha Myers, a heterosexual 15-year-old student at Webb City High School in Missouri, was twice sent home from school last November for wearing homemade t-shirts; first, one bearing several handwritten slogans such as “I support the gay rights!” and “Who are we to judge?” and the next day one that bore a rainbow and the Webster’s dictionary definition of “gay": “M[e]rry, happy.”

Also today, in Ohio, the ACLU sent a letter to school officials demanding that they stop censoring a group of students who want to wear t-shirts supporting marriage for same-sex couples. Two weeks ago, a student at Dublin Jerome High School was told to take off a t-shirt that read “I support gay marriage” after administrators claimed that a student had been offended by it. The next day, about 20 students protested the action by coming to school in similar t-shirts. They were required to change their t-shirts, turn them inside-out, or go home. In both schools, administrators routinely allowed students to wear shirts expressing other messages, including endorsements of the Bush and Kerry presidential campaigns, students’ views on abortion, and religious messages.

At ACLU.org.

Ex College Shock Jock Sues

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 04/06/2005 @ 8:58 am

Former Occidental College DJ Jason Antebi is suing his alma mater. Occidental fired him from his DJ gig for making on-air jokes that sounded like “hate speech.”

Two students filed a sexual harassment complaint against Antebi with the school’s human resources department, claiming that his show promoted “disrespect and slander” against “women, diversity, and Occidental College.” But Antebi described the nature of the show as displaying a “shock jock humor that is typical of college radio programs,” and wrote in the Pasadena Star News on Dec. 8 that “while undoubtedly some were offended [by the show], certainly no one was harassed.”

Antebi contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) Director of Legal and Public Advocacy, Greg Lukianoff, who wrote to Occidental President Ted Mitchell on March 30, 2004, that the school’s actions threatened Antebi’s right to free speech because the content of “Rant and Rave” was fully protected by California’s Leonard Law. The Leonard Law prohibits private colleges and high schools from making or enforcing any rule that would subject a student to disciplinary action for engaging in expression that would otherwise be protected by the First Amendment if it occurred off campus. California is the only state with statutory protections for the free expression rights of private school students.

Occidental General Counsel Sandra Cooper responded in an April 2 letter that the issue was not whether the college infringed on Antebi’s free speech rights, but whether “the college is required to sponsor a forum to facilitate Mr. Antebi’s behavior, which includes hate speech.” Her letter accused Antebi of various incidents of illegal activity, such as “middle of the night sexual telephone calls” and disabling two tires on a vehicle, as well as an example of “hate speech” written in his online diary, which was not hosted on the college’s Web site.

Antebi was found guilty of sexual harassment by the school.

From the Student Press Law Center.

Cable Networks Fear ‘a la Carte’

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 04/06/2005 @ 8:26 am

Despite a growing push for “family friendly” programming packages, cable companies are resistant to the idea.

Their excuse: The ever-popular “costs will be passed on to consumers.” (We should all recognize this as industry code for “We really, really want you to stop asking for this because we have boat payments.")

More in the E-Commerce Times.

Dr. Jekyll/Rep. Sensenbrenner Now Says Regulation Bad (Prosecution Apparently Okay)

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 04/06/2005 @ 8:17 am

Speaking at the NCTA conference yesterday, House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner said when it comes to “indecency,” parental controls are preferable to government regulation.

Two days ago, Sensenbrenner said he believed violators of the FCC’s indecency regs should be prosecuted.

We’ll have tomorrow’s opinion tomorrow.


Fox Hires Official Censor

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 04/05/2005 @ 9:07 am

Worried about FCC fines, Fox has designated a VP to be in charge of the network’s internal content review process for all programming and advertising.

From Variety, via The Center for Creative Voices in the Media.

Families Struggle with ‘Family’ Viewing

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 04/05/2005 @ 8:49 am

No doubt about it – policing the kids’ TV habits is hard work. This wire article details the efforts of several families, and proves that there are alternatives to government censorship (although they may not be the easiest way out).

Family TV Viewing Proves Challenging, Knight Ridder.

New Group Teaches Kids about Amendment #1

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 04/05/2005 @ 8:26 am

Reacting to its recent study that found high schoolers woefully ignorant about the First Amendment, the Knight Foundation has launched firstamendmentfuture.org.

The purpose of the site is the educate students, and to support high school media, free expression, and students’ legal rights.

Cable Corps Quake

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 04/05/2005 @ 8:20 am

Facing the prospect of indecency regulation for cable and satellite channels, the LA Times reports that company execs wonder and worry at the future.

If a compromise cannot be reached, cable executives here warn, some of America’s most-watched shows could become targets, including such “basic” cable offerings as “Nip/Tuck” on News Corp.’s FX and Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob SquarePants,” which some critics allege promotes a gay lifestyle. Premium cable channels, such as HBO and Showtime, could also face restrictions.

“Viewers are in jeopardy of losing some of their favorite programming unless they speak up,” said Johnathan Rodgers, a longtime television executive who is now chief executive of TV One, a cable channel aimed at African Americans. The 5 million people who watch FX’s “The Shield,” for example, “should let their congressmen know, because other people are labeling it indecent,” he said. “That’s a judgment call.”


Comcast Corp. CEO Brian Roberts said Monday that he believed the Internet offered a good model to follow.

“One reason we have AOL in our home is because it has parental controls,” Roberts said of his own family. “Why can’t we [the industry] do the same thing instead of regulating speech?”

But in an attempt to avoid anti-indecency backlash, sources say, Roberts may move to take some of Comcast’s raciest programming off the air.

Sources said that Roberts was considering not renewing “The Howard Stern Show” — the videotaped version of the shock jock’s rant-filled radio program — when the contract expires this spring. The show, which helped put the E channel on the map, is still a ratings winner. But Roberts is worried that Stern, who has racked up more than $2 million in indecency fines for the nation’s radio stations, could provoke unwanted scrutiny from Washington, especially if he gets even raunchier once he moves to satellite radio in January.

The Times also notes that one of the biggest industry advocates for cable regs is the Disney corporation – owner of the Disney channels, ESPN, and ABC (home to Desperate Housewives). Disney’s lobbyist is the former chief of staff for Alaska senator Ted Stevens, one of the pols behind the regulation drive.

The Times also reports that FCC Chair Kevin Martin will participate in a Q&A later today at the conference of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association in San Francisco.

And here’s the punchline: Cable companies have made attempts to offer more control to parents concerned about what their kids are watching. Last year, the industry ran frequent promos notifying parents of free blocking technologies available to them.

Fewer than 1,000 parents requested that the block boxes be installed in their homes.

Indecency Proposal Getting Static From Cable
, LA Times.

Satellite Radio Subscriptions Snowballing

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 04/05/2005 @ 8:01 am

Despite the puritans’ suggestion that satellite radio is subjecting people to unwanted indecency, subscriptions are increasing at an unheard of pace. In fact, according to the New York Times, the number of satellite radio users is increasing even faster than did cell phone users during the cell phone boom.

As satellite radio takes off, it is altering the airwaves, from the NYT, via Free Press.


Science Guy: IMAX Censorship Not Good

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 04/04/2005 @ 6:39 am

The CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the publisher of the magazine Science (same guy) has condemned several IMAX theatres’ decision to forego movies that bump up against evolution. Several theatres have expressed concern that showing movies with evolutionary themes – such as the explosive pic “Volcanoes of the Deep Sea,” might get them in hot water with religious activists.

In a letter to 400 science groups, Alan Leshner says:

We are writing now to express strong concerns about increasing threats to science that endanger our shared missions and to offer our support and partnership in dealing with them. The desire not to antagonize audiences and to avoid negative business outcomes is entirely understandable. Yet, the suppression of scientifically accurate information as a response to those with differing perspectives is inappropriate and threatens both the integrity of science and the broader public education to which we all are committed. It is also objectionable to many stakeholders-including many with strong religious convictions – who understand that religion and science are not in opposition.

In the aptly named Obvious News.


Alaska Slashes PBS Funding

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 04/03/2005 @ 7:50 am

Alaskan legislators have cut PBS’ state funding by 30%.

In the Juneau Empire.

Viewers Seeking Public Access Get Pubic Access

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 04/03/2005 @ 7:48 am

Some civic-minded New Yorkers tuned in to their local cable access channel last week hoping to see a dull and poorly filmed city council meeting. Instead, they were treated to a performance by a group of nude dancers due to a production engineer’s error.

George Morton, a local who had just returned home from Mass, was shocked. “I thought, this is terrible,” Morton said. “I don’t get HBO or anything like that.”

Morton plans to complain to the FCC.

In Newsday. [via TV Barn]

America’s Hypocrisy

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 04/03/2005 @ 7:24 am

“My fellow Americans, what a bunch of hypocrites we are. We go wacko decrying, fining and threatening, even demanding, censorship of rotten television, but we watch plenty of it, and we don’t prevent our children from seeing it.”

John Greenwald in the Connecticut Republican-American.

[If re-directed to the paper’s home page, click on “America’s Hypocrisy."]


Broadcasters to Discuss “Responsible Programming”

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 04/01/2005 @ 4:39 pm

Between slot pulls and Cirque viewings, the National Association of Broadcasters will discuss “responsible programming” at their annual conference in Vegas, commencing on April 19th.

CNN’s Jeff Greenfield will moderate a discussion among a group of broadcasters that includes David J. Barrett, president/CEO, Hearst-Argyle Television; Gary Chapman, chairman/president/CEO, LIN Television Corporation; David Kennedy, president/CEO, Susquehanna Media Co.; Mark Mays, president/COO, Clear Channel Worldwide; Jeff Smulyan, chairman/CEO, Emmis Communications Corp.; and Tony Vinciquerra, president/CEO, Fox Networks Group. The panel discussion will also feature Vicky Rideout, vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

CounterSpin Discussion on Indecency

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 04/01/2005 @ 7:15 am

Counterspin, the weekly radio show of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), addresses the indecency battle this week.

Listen online at FAIR.


Toledo Professor Addresses Censorship in Film

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/31/2005 @ 6:41 am

University of Toledo professor Tammy Kinsey has developed an academic look at the history of film censorship.

Ms. Kinsey only teaches [the class] every other year (this semester, about 20 students, mostly film majors, are enrolled), and she’s discovered, she said, that the only way to discuss honestly what can’t be shown and what can’t be said is to say it and to show it — and then discuss it.

“I shock them in ways they wouldn’t even imagine, I think.”

In the Toldeo Blade.


Chris Rock: It’s All Janet’s Fault

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/30/2005 @ 6:37 pm

Chris Rock blames Janet Jackson for the creeping tide of censorship we’re seeing.

In ContactMusic.

Kids Need More Education on Amendment #1

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/30/2005 @ 8:21 am
  • Nearly 75 percent of students surveyed either do not know how they feel about the First Amendment or admit they take it for granted;
  • 75 percent falsely believe it is illegal to burn the U.S. flag as a form of public statement; and,
  • 50 percent think the government can censor the Internet.

Heartland Foundation: High School Students Apathetic, Unknowledgeable About First Amendment.

Dallas Man: Hollywood Out of Touch, Kinda Evil

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/30/2005 @ 8:16 am

Says a Dallas Morning News op-ed penned by a suburbanite: Hollywood is responsible for divorce rates. And lung cancer. And probably a whole lotta other things.

Hollywood is a world away from our values.

Georgetown U Student: I Am Not a Child, Do Not Need Protection

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/30/2005 @ 8:10 am

A Georgetown University student comments on a sicko MTV series – and her right as an adult to watch it.

The FCC Won’t Let Me Be.


Media Concentration, Indecency Complaints Are Natural Bedfellows

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/29/2005 @ 8:52 am

Our friend Jonathan Rintels at the Center for Creative Voices in the Media points to an examination of the relationship between media ownership and consumer complaints.

Linking Concentration and Indecency

Colorado School Pulls Articles on Teen Sexuality

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/29/2005 @ 8:34 am

An Arvada, CO, school district has prohibited the school newspaper from running articles discussing birth control and STDs – including an article that claimed abstinence as the only foolproof form of birth control.

The school says the issue was not censorship, but miscommunication.

In the Denver Post.

LA Times: Hollywood Endures Political Storm

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/29/2005 @ 8:23 am

1) Volcanoes = blasphemous
2) Crawford, TX = hip & vibrant
3) UN = protector of possibly pipsqueakish people
4) MTV = the abstinence channel

These are the new rules of the road. Study up at the LA Times.

Political storm cloud hangs over Hollywood


Help Fight the Indecency Fighters (sticky)

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/28/2005 @ 10:16 pm

Fighting indecency complaints, fighting groups like the Parents Television Council, doesn’t mean you’re advocating for prime-time smut. It doesn’t mean you’re a pervert. It doesn’t mean you hate America.

It means you believe in free speech. It means you know how to turn your television off. It means you don’t want a group of mobilized politicos to determine what is or isn’t suitable entertainment for you and your family.

So fight it. Speak up.

Help us help you fight.

SpeakSpeak is entirely volunteer-run. We’re as grassroots as it gets, baby. We’re building a coalition of people like you who are fed up with government censorship (un-American), right-wing intolerance (un-Christian), and general cultural idiocy (un-Smart).

Help us.

Support SpeakSpeak. It only takes $5, or $10, or $whatever. And it’s a donation that matters.

Regardless of your ability to donate, speak up now!

Ask incoming FCC Chairman Kevin Martin to stand up for free speech.

In 2004, the FCC fined broadcasters over $8 million for indecency violations. But in recent months, the FCC denied over 40 indecency complaints filed by groups like the Parents Television Council.

In order to give life to this trend of sensible action on the part of the FCC, you need to speak up.

If you don’t, who will?

It takes approximately 42 seconds.

Speak up now.

TV Gets Religion

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/28/2005 @ 1:25 pm

From the Wall Street Journal: Broadcasters are hoping to reach a niche market with religious-themed programming.

Business Week: GOP/FCC Treading Dangerous Waters

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/28/2005 @ 1:11 pm

A Business Week columnist asserts that the public is not too keen on the idea of cable and satellite indecency regulation, and that the GOP could be in for a rude awakening at the polls should it continue the drive.

FCC and GOP May Over Reach If They Go After Cable TV, Business Week.

Censors Say the Darnedest Things

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/28/2005 @ 9:54 am

Paul McMasters, of the First Amendment Center, writes about censorship in the Naples (FL) Daily News.

For some government officials, the temptation to censor is sometimes irresistible. They are convinced that some Americans just can’t be trusted with freedom of speech — high school students, library patrons, artists and others who, they believe, should be just sort-of citizens when it comes to First Amendment protections.

Power in the hands of the censor, of course, is like a chainsaw in the hands of a fool. Something is going to get mangled sooner or later. Often it is logic and common sense.

For example, we usually think of the censor’s wrath as directed at obscenity, hate speech, violence in the media, that sort of thing. More often, however, the target of the censor is much more mundane and the reasons given for suppression much more convoluted than we have a right to expect.

Inside the First Amendment: Censors say the darnedest things

Editorial: What Price, Censorship?

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/28/2005 @ 9:49 am

The Detroit Free Press has this to say about the possibility of increased indecency fines:

Most parents rightly want their children shielded from the dicey language, sexual innuendo and seamy behavior that sometimes erupt on the airwaves. Heck, lots of adults cringe at this stuff.

But until more people turn off the TV than sit vacuously in front of it, the situation won’t change. Bigger fines won’t stop cultural drivel. Changing the channel is the marketplace, consumer-driven solution – without the downside of having networks shy away from serious topics for fear of offending someone in Washington.

From the Freep.

Yellow Cabs Say No to Blue Ads

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/28/2005 @ 9:39 am

New York’s Yellow Cabs will no longer sport strip club ads. Clear Channel, the owner of the cab top ads, has decided that the sexy ads are bad business.

From the NY Post (via I Want Media).


Free Press, or Disrespectful Press?

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/27/2005 @ 9:47 am

In the wake of the Red Lake, Minnesota, school shooting, media outlets are grumbling over the tribal government’s restrictions on their news-gathering. According to the Michigan Morning Sun, the tribe required reporters to stay on Red Lake’s main highway, prohibited them from knocking on residents’ doors, and asked to review press dispatches before publication. The press is crying ‘censorship’ and, according to the Morning Sun, citizens are being kept in the dark.

Free speech should apply, even after tragedy, The Morning Sun.

Yahoo Hones First Amendment Argument

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/27/2005 @ 9:38 am

A current court case is pitting the American ideal of free seech on the internet against speech prohibited in other countries. The debate centers on a Yahoo auction of Nazi memorabilia. A Paris court has fined Yahoo for selling the Nazi souvenirs to French citizens. Purchase of Nazi paraphernalia is prohibited by French law (but protected by the First Amendment).

More at the LA Times.


Out-Foxed, Foxed Out

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/26/2005 @ 2:44 pm

Tired of indecent “news” on the Fox station that’s supposed to provide said info?

Screw it – a Fox Blocker, that is. With a twist of the wrist, your set will become a bit more fair and balanced.

This from the site:

1. We don’t believe in censorship. Foxblocker is a voluntary product installed by homeowners. People choose to filter internet porn, filtering FOX News is no different. It is only censorship if the GOVERNMENT filters it for you.

2. I don’t have a problem with FOX News. If they would just come out and say that it is rightwing news for right wing nuts (wingnuts) we will take this site down and move on.

Hey, it’s Christmas in March!

Update: According to Daily Kos, the creator of the Fox Blocker has apparently been receiving death threats.

Is We Smart Enough To Be Morally Good?

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/26/2005 @ 7:33 am

…Or is we too stupid?

The Liberal Online (that’s Liberal, Kansas, the noun, not “liberal,” the adjective) editorializes that most of us is, in fact, not too stupid to to stay smart, even though there are bad stuff on TV.

The more a child or young adult views [content like MTV] without an equal balance of exposure to morally upright content, then the more blurred the line of morality becomes. It essentially inhibits the child’s ability to make good choices as he or she accepts the behaviors witnessed on television.

The root of the issue, like nearly all, becomes supply and demand. The supply of content can never be absolutely controlled because of our rights protected by the first amendment, which is a good thing as it transcends to all issues.

As long as the demand for such content brings viewers and customers, the shows or literature or whatever expression that does not encourage the morally good will continue to be supported.

Education becomes the best tool. Children must be taught more vigorously and frequently the importance of making good moral choices. A society that blurs the line on morality is destined to produce corruption.


Indecency to Make Govt $10m Richer

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/25/2005 @ 2:20 pm

Buzzmachine reports that the Congressional Budget Office estimates $10 million in revenue from indecency fines between 2006-2015.

Sounds great! That averages to $1 million a year (or 2 fines, if penalties increase to $500,000 per incident). The total for 2004 alone was over $7 million.



DC Media Lawyer: Learn to Love the Indecency Battle

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/24/2005 @ 7:08 am

It’s not going away, says Robert Corn-Revere. (Until we make it go away.)

In Media Daily News.

China Tightens Grip on Student Forums

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/24/2005 @ 7:03 am

The Chinese government has instituted new restrictions on university student websites as part of a Communist Party campaign to strengthen what it calls “ideological education” on campuses.

The new rules require students to register for forums with their real names and block off-campus users.

A spokesman for one university said that his employer “was adopting measures to clean the Web.”

When it happens there, it’s “repression.” When it happens here, it’s “family values.”

In the Washington Post.


We’ll Always Have Spamalot

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/23/2005 @ 11:12 am

Racine Journal Times columnist Rachel Campbell points out that if TV and cable get sanitized, there’s always Broadway.

The Knights Who Say (Censored)

NBC To Air “Faith-Based” Programming

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/23/2005 @ 9:27 am

NBC is developing two programs with theological content. “Due to the popularity of such books as ‘The Da Vinci Code’ and the box office success of such movies as ‘The Passion of the Christ,’ there’s no denying the general public’s interest in the supernatural and the spiritual realms,” said Vince Manze, president and creative director of The NBC Agency.

“We felt what needed to be done is a television show that expressed itself as Christian,” said Gavin Polone, an executive producer of, and the driving force behind, “Revelations.” “We’re very clear about that here. The words ‘Jesus Christ’ or ‘Christ’ are used three times a minute.” In line with keeping the Christian faith authentic within the series the creators of “Revelations” say they took great pains with all the Biblical aspects of the series.

The shows and marketing efforts will be developed with the help of a theological consultant.

Note to PTC: Turn on, tune in, shut up.

From the Christian Post.

News Flash: Most Americans Have Common Sense

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/23/2005 @ 9:17 am

Regardless of what certain activist groups would have you believe, Americans DO NOT support a ban on television content that some groups might find icky.

The poll numbers, like all poll numbers, can be spun. But look at the stats.

Q: Should the government ban the following type of program content, or not?

Cursing and sexual language
Yes: 41%
No: 56%

Explicit sexual content, such as nudity
Yes: 41%
No: 56%

Yes: 36%
No: 62%

Gay lifestyles and homosexuality
Yes: 35%
No: 62%

Drug and alcohol abuse
Yes: 33%
No: 62%

Plastic surgery for entertainment purposes
Yes: 21%
No: 72%

So-called “reality television”
Yes: 18%
No: 78%

From Angus Reid Consultants.


First Amendment = Second-Rate Issue

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/21/2005 @ 8:10 am

Great op-ed in the Times Herald-Record (NY): First Amendment has become a second-rate issue.

No Complaints Against SNL Nose-Penis

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/21/2005 @ 7:18 am

Broadcasting & Cable reports that Saturday Night Live viewers largely missed a penis that made its way on screen in an inside joke – on David Spade’s nose.

His nose looked like a penis. Not ‘kind of like a penis’; it looked like a urologically-correct appendage, right down to what we believe is called the dorsal vein.

We took a digital photo of the screen image (posted above), and showed it to an NBC spokesman, who said, “I don’t see what you’re seeing,” which made us wonder if we just had a dirty mind. But, no: A source at the show confirms that Spade was indeed fitted with a penile proboscis.

The FCC reports no complaints. SNL, of course, airs after the 10 p.m. “safe harbor.” Still, this slope seems slippery.

More (including pics) at B&C.


PTC Gets ‘Time’ Spread

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/20/2005 @ 6:28 pm

The Parents Television Council is the subject of the March 28th cover story in Time Magazine.

While the article isn’t exactly complimentary, neither does it acknowledge folks like us who are fed up with the attempts of Bozell and friends to commandeer the airwaves.

Read it online (possibly using BugMeNot).

Then, let Time know how you feel.


AFA Chides Middle School Newspaper for Mentioning Non-Christian Religion

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/18/2005 @ 8:54 am

An American Family Association representative in Michigan has taken a middle school to task for allowing an eighth-grader to publish a story about the Wiccan religion.

“We brought this to the Midland School Board’s attention,” [AFA rep Gary] Glenn says. “The principal said she agreed that it was inappropriate and would take steps in the future to make sure that it would not happen again. But we’ve made it an issue in the community in hopes that it will serve as an object lesson for school officials in all schools in the city and, hopefully, the entire state.”

According to Agape Press, “Glenn says he has warned the school district of the dangers associated with neopagan religious practices, many of which have been documented by law enforcement and the media. For instance, he notes, a female public school teacher in the town of Muskegon recently married a 14-year-old student in a Wiccan ceremony and sexually molested the child. And just two weeks ago in Ohio, a Wiccan couple was convicted of murdering a 13-month-old baby.”

“We think it also runs the risk of potential legal liability for the public school,” Glenn adds. “If a student perceives his or her school to be encouraging the practice of witchcraft and, based on reliance on that understanding, actually does engage in witchcraft and then comes to some kind of harm, we think the school district could be held liable.”

Glenn neglected to cite statistics on Christians accused/convicted of heinous crimes, like for instance, this guy, this guy, and this guy.

In Agape Press.

Bernie Sanders to the Rescue

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/18/2005 @ 7:35 am

The AP is reporting that maverick Congressman Bernie Sanders is drafting a bill that would prohibit the government from censoring cable and internet content – services that are opt-in and subscription-based.

WASHINGTON, Vt. Vermont US Congressman Bernard Sanders is drafting legislation that would keep the government from censoring content available on cable and satellite television and the Internet. Sanders says he’s worried that the Senate will try to extend a House-passed bill cracking down on indecency on broadcast television to cover the other services.

Sanders notes that cable and satellite television and the Internet are services people pay for, and he says censoring them would violate basic notions of liberty.

He says he doesn’t want to see the Federal Communications Commission bleeping Tony Soprano or Jon Stewart.

TownHall: MTV Is Dirty and Gross

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/18/2005 @ 7:30 am

Citing Bozell’s astonishing study that proved the existence of racy content on MTV, TownHall/Heritage Foundation wag Rebecca Hagelin points out that there is racy content on MTV.

However, while the salty language she decries was bleeped on MTV’s broadcasts, Hagelin, as a service to her conservative and easily-traumatized readers, has provided transcripts of the language behind the bleeps.

Nate: “She’s eating whipped cream off some dude’s [bleeped ‘f—ing’] chest right now!”

MTV still rockin’, TownHall.com.

U.S. Reps Want E.D. Ads Off T.V.

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/18/2005 @ 7:18 am

U.S. Representatives, among them Arkansan Mike Ross, have introduced a bill that would scrub TV of ads for erectile-dysfunction cures.

“I can recall countless evenings I’ve spent at home with my wife and children, enjoying a good television program when suddenly, we are rudely interrupted by a distasteful, and frankly embarrassing advertisement,” Ross said.

The PTC and the AFA support the bill, which has thus far apparently only been reported in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. (Registration required; use Bugmenot.)


Heins on Indecency

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/17/2005 @ 7:40 am

Marjorie Heins, professor, author, and expert on censorship/indecency issues, has posted an excellent analysis of how the indecency debate and the First Amendment get along.

“Indecent” speech – whatever that term may mean to the FCC at any particular time – is constitutionally protected, so ordinarily the government has no business censoring it. Disagreement with dominant ideologies and moral codes is exactly what the principle of free expression is designed to protect. We don’t need the First Amendment to protect speech that offends nobody and agrees with conventional norms. Instead of debating whether it threatens the republic for cable channels to show bare breasts, indulge in bathroom humor, or bleep out vulgar language in a war movie, policymakers should be focusing on the ways in which both cable and broadcast are dominated by large corporations that distract us with car crashes, reality TV, and celebrity newsbites while ignoring serious journalism. With a majority of Americans still believing that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, we know that the media – both broadcast and cable – are not doing their job.

At Common Dreams.

Support SpeakSpeak by buying Marjorie Heins’ books at Powell’s.


Colo Springs School District Nixes ‘We Are Family’ Video

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/16/2005 @ 10:35 am

Prior to the arrival of the video (and therefore, prior to viewing it) a handful of parents complained about the super-tolerant “We Are Family” video. So, one Colorado Springs school district decided not to show it in its 16 elementary schools.

“We just feel we have character ed programs already in place that address the same goals of tolerance and diversity,” said the district spokeswoman.

Colorado Springs Gazette

A 3Martini Analysis of Stevens’ Bid to Rate the Net

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/16/2005 @ 7:43 am

Analysis, with transcripts, of Stevens’ latest attempt to clean up culture.

From 3Martini.

Metro Times on Gay Sponge Hysteria and Asexual Reproduction

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/16/2005 @ 7:21 am

Detroit Metro Times columnist Ric Bohy has a few choice words for sponge haters.

If you’re one of that supposed moral majority who blanches at even the thought of Sponge Bob recruiting impressionable young sponges into a homosexual lifestyle, let me calm your fears and settle the whole controversy: Sponges are hermaphrodites. Biologically, they can’t be gay. They can admire the ass on — and buy cosmopolitans for — any sponge they want, have twice the chances of going home with a cute poriferum, and choose whichever set of sex organs they need to keep it straight. Of course, if they strike out, they can always go home alone, fertilize their own eggs and produce little larvae with their own doubled chance of getting action on a Saturday night.

Read the rant.

Whining Media Reject Efforts to Battle Indecency

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/16/2005 @ 6:59 am

An Indy op-ed: Those of us fighting censorship disguised as “indecency regulation” ought to climb off our “First Amendment high horse” and wave the white flag.

Whining media reject efforts to battle indecency in the Indy Star.


Arthur Miller, In Grave, Rolls Over

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/15/2005 @ 1:06 pm

The Advocate (Baton-Rouge, LA), has an op-ed about what crusty old Arthur Miller thought about censorship.

Read the piece, with excerpts of Miller’s writings.


Stevens Backs Off Cable Regulation

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/14/2005 @ 7:16 am

According to Broadcasting & Cable, Senator Ted Stevens has backpedaled on his pledge to extend the FCC’s indecency jurisdiction to cable networks. Stevens now says he’s all for industry attempts to “self-regulate,” even if that self-regulation entails explaining to parents how to use the V-chips already present in their living rooms. Stevens also made a veiled endorsement of so-called a la carte cable packages, which would allow consumers to subscribe only to networks they actually want, as opposed to the 100-channel packages that the media congloms want them to have.

B&C: Stevens: Less-Tough Talk on Cable Indecency


Hoo-Boy! Rant-o-Rama Re: Prudishness

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/11/2005 @ 7:12 am

Master of Vitriol Doug Thompson has a few things to say about SpongeBob, Margaret Spellings, and the sexual habits of the Bush Administration.

Start your engines.

These people are a blight that threatens any chance of an enlightened society, scabs of repression that must be picked if we are to have any chance for survival and progress. In a perfect right-wing world, gays would be committed to mental institutions, blacks would be sent back to Africa, books and movies would be subject to review and censorship before release and every woman would be a virgin before marriage (and that marriage could only be to a man).

They fantasize about conspiracies from all directions: the media, Hollywood, teachers and even within their own ranks. Everyone, they feel, is out to get them.

The conservative fruitcakes are correct about one thing: There is a massive threat to the future of this country. It is a spreading disease that threatens to devour everything that was once good about this nation, a rotting cancer that eats at the flesh of the body politic and may well turn America into a putrid, decaying corpse of a country.

And there’s more! Glad we’re on his side.


Clinton, Brownback and Santorum Walk into a Bar…

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/10/2005 @ 8:17 am

Senator Hillary Clinton, along with uber-conservatives Sam Brownback and Rick Santorum, has introduced a bill that would create a media research program at the National Institutes of Health. The program would explore “the links between media and child development, and between media consumption and childhood obesity, a growing national health risk.”

Clinton harkened back to the Children’s TV Act and creation of the V-Chip during her husband’s administration, then suggested the explosion of new media-delivery systems called for “a new generation of technology for parents,” who want to monitor their children’s media consumption.

It’s unclear how many of those parents are out there, however. The Kaiser study found that over half the parents of the children surveyed set no rules on TV watching, for instance, and most of those that do don’t enforce them.

Clinton Revives ‘Media Health’ Bill, Broadcasting & Cable.


Indecency Bill Might Get Vote This Week

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/08/2005 @ 5:19 pm

Broadcasting & Cable is reporting that the Senate may take up the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act when it’s done playing with bankruptcy law. Sources tell B&C that the vote could come by the end of the week, and that it will almost definitely engender some debate. This could also be the opportunity Ted Stevens has been looking for to tack on a cable regulation provision.

Civics refresher: It’s the House-authored bill that the Senate will vote on. The Senate’s more moderate Brownback/Lieberman bill seems to have died in committee. The House bill, remember, would raise fines to a whopping $500,000 per violation.

Talk to your Senators. Speak up.

Journo Prof: FCC Fines and University Censorship Go Hand-in-Hand

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/08/2005 @ 10:51 am

No new news, but at least people are starting to get it: University of Georgia Grady College Professor Warns of Increased Governmental Pressures on Broadcasters and College Press

ACLU Backs Ousted Teen Editor

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/08/2005 @ 9:20 am

Ann Long, editor of a high school newspaper in Fullerton, CA, was removed from her post after publishing an article about the closet/uncloset delimma of three fellow students. The ACLU has stepped in.

According to the LA Times, school officials have offered several excuses for firing long: “They first accused her of violating a state law that prohibits asking students about their sexuality without parents’ consent. Officials instead admonished Long for breaking widely held journalist standards and for allegedly ignoring orders from her teacher to obtain permission from the parents mentioned in the article.”

ACLU Backs Student Editor, LA Times

Michigan Investigates Legality of Cable Nudity

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/08/2005 @ 7:29 am

In today’s news from the slippery slope, the Michigan Court of Appeals is to decide whether public indecent exposure laws can be used to prosecute nudity on cable TV, which is typically exempt from indecency regulation. The case involves a man who was prosecuted after his appearance on a cable access show. His schtick: Performing an erzatz stand-up comedy routine with his penis.

The Kent County DA won its indecent exposure case. The penis appealed, and its appeal was handled by the ACLU.

The Appeals Court ruling could have a far-reaching impact on cable regulation, and could weigh on Senator Ted Stevens’ and Congressman Joe Barton’s promise to extend FCC regulation to cable broadcasters. Outgoing FCC Chair Michael Powell has pooh-poohed the idea, noting that a 2000 Supreme Court decision (U.S. vs. Playboy Entertainment Group) upheld cable’s right to air nudity and other material not-safe-for-children.

Broadcasting & Cable has the scoop.


When Sponges Attack

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/07/2005 @ 3:26 pm

SpongeBob and dopplegangers infiltrate “Focus on the Family Day” at the Colorado Capitol.

Story and pictures at Progress Now.

Same Shit, Different Country (Pt. 2)

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/07/2005 @ 1:27 pm

A seminar was held in New Delhi yesterday to discuss how obscenity in the media affects crime. In short, they decided that it does.

One actress/censor board member noted that although ‘obscenity’ is hard to define, “the thumb rule should be that whatever one cannot see with the family can be considered obscene or adult material.”

At WebIndia and Delhi Newsline.

Utah Votes for Net Nanny

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/07/2005 @ 10:57 am

Utah’s Senate has passed a bill that would require ALL ISPs to block web sites that the state deems “harmful to minors.”

The Governor has 2 weeks to decide whether to sign.

From CNET. (Sent in by Chris at Censoround.)

Disney re: Indecency Regulation: Go for It!

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/07/2005 @ 9:11 am

Is Disney worried about the prospect of the FCC regulating cable indecency? Nah.

In Broadcasting & Cable, via I Want Media.

MediaWeek on Possible Cable Regulation

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/07/2005 @ 7:34 am

Todd Shields has the skinny: Pols Pursue Paid Cable, Satellite Content.

Bozell Details NBC’s Sins

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/07/2005 @ 7:31 am

NBC has apparently introduced a new sitcom that will send the entire network to h-e-l-l. The show in question is “Committed,” described by NBC as a show “that casts an off-kilter eye on the bizarre whirlwind courtship of two opposites who attract each other despite outrageous circumstances.”

Earth-shattering breakthrough in the sitcom arts?

According to Bozell, the show is full of blasphemy, sacrilege, and a lot of other stuff that makes God angry:

The NBC show’s funeral mass begins with kneeling, which is wrong. The priest is wearing no vestments for the funeral, just a white robe and a stole, which is wrong. When the non-Catholic characters receive communion without knowing better, that’s wrong. Not only do most people understand what Catholics believe about communion, but priests routinely instruct non-Catholics not to receive the Eucharist during Communion.

The show’s neurotic Jewish lead character, Nick, who took communion but didn’t swallow the Host, is carrying it around, wondering how to get rid of it. He and his friend Bowie try to dispose of it by putting it on a tray of crackers in front of the priest. (Funny, huh?) When that doesn’t work, there’s the aforementioned awful flushing scene. When Nate and Bowie realize they haven’t flushed the Body of Christ down the toilet, they return to watch the priest thoughtlessly grab the Host off the cracker tray. Saying “What the Hell,” he puts it in his mouth and ends the plotline.

In summation, says Bozell, “What’s next for this network as it sinks into fourth place? Having its sitcom characters accidentally use the Old Testament as toilet paper? Mocking God isn’t funny. It’s evil.”

Bozell: NBC Flushes the Sacred, at TownHall.com.

Indecent Proposal

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/07/2005 @ 7:23 am

BrandWeek on the proposal to un-indecencify cable and satellite networks:

“Cable is a much greater violator in the indecency area,” Senator Ted Stevens told the NAB. Of course it is. That’s the point: Not its “indecency,” but it’s where viewers and creators can find ideas that are free of narrow, demagogic, Mayberry-style notions of what is decent.

There is a reason audiences have for two decades been eroding away from the network TV assembly-line that birthed Full House. It’s because of “TGIF” lineups, awards shows and lousy sitcoms, and because, apparently, the real programming talent has been ghettoed off at Comedy Central and the Cartoon Network—even Murdoch’s FX. There they’ve been free to act as skunkworks, commissioning creators unrestrained by the futzing, second-guessing and now paranoid management of broadcast television.

In BrandWeek.

Sharpton Proposed Ban on Violence in Music

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/07/2005 @ 7:15 am

Al Sharpton plans to propose a 90-day radio ban for any artist who romanticizes violence to sell music.

“We may not be able to stop people from shooting, but we can stop people from profiting from the violence,” said Sharpton.

In NY Newsday.


Senate Smut Bill May Reach Floor This Week; Expected to Pass with Flying Pastels

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/06/2005 @ 10:25 am

Senate leader Bill Frist says that the Senate’s indecency bill should reach the floor this week. Next-door, Tom DeLay says that the differences between his chamber’s bill and the Senate bill should be worked out easily in conference. In other words, it will pass.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said if broadcasters using the public airwaves “are not going to assume the responsibility that goes along with it then apparently government has to step in and insist that they do.”

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, said “heavy fines for submitting children to inappropriate material is the only way you can really curb it.”

However, Sen. Patty Murry, D-Wash., said she isn’t sure that heftier fines are needed, adding that Americans are “pretty good at responding to issues that they don’t like” and can always “turn off the television.”

In the Houston Chronicle.

Prepare for an Onslaught of Boredom

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/06/2005 @ 9:59 am

Think the Oscars were boring? Just you wait….

[M]ost of the blame for a stultifyingly dull Oscar Night should go to the American public, for being asleep while this silliness over TV “decency” got so far out of hand.

Now, wake up! And speak up!

Salt Lake Tribune: Think the Oscars were boring? All TV could end up that way.

Are You an Orth or a Prog?

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/06/2005 @ 9:51 am

The Kansas City Star has provided us with a handy chart for diagnosing your attitude toward these so-called culture wars.

Progressives (Progs for short) believe facts and experience inform lives, that morality depends on the times, and real truth is that which we define for ourselves.

Orthodoxes (or Orths) think that’s nuts. They believe morality is defined and unchanging, external and transcendent, and explained by God’s biblical word. To an Orth, the notion that mortals can decide morality is ludicrous.

This Is a Holey War.


Bolshoi Opera’s “Morality” Must Be Verified Before Production

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/05/2005 @ 10:18 am

The Russian Government has decided to pre-emptively “verify the morality” of an avant-garde opera to be performed at Moscow’s famed Bolshoi Theatre. The lower house of parliament has voted for a resolution requiring the legislative “culture committee” to fully review the opera before it opens later this month.

According to the legislation’s sponsor, “The Bolshoi should produce the great classic shows such as Giselle or Swan Lake. If it stages modern works, they must be acceptable from a public morality point of view.”

He also stated that the legislation is intended to “send a message.”

When it happens there, it’s “repression.” When it happens here, it’s “family values.”

Agence France-Presse.

American Family Association Kills Gay Author Appearance

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/05/2005 @ 10:11 am

A Virginia school district has cancelled a lecture by mystery novelist Greg Herren after the American Family Association objected to his sinful gayness.

A resident who protested Herren’s visit said, “There are plenty of avenues for folks with this particular opinion or position to express their First Amendment rights, but I don’t believe a public school is the proper avenue without input from parents.”

School District Cancels Gay Author Event

Moms Debate Decency

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/05/2005 @ 10:05 am

Two Dallas moms discuss parenting in the age of indecency in the Dallas Morning News. They give a good synopsis of both sides of the argument.

Gail: I agree with the president [who stated that parents ought to control TV], and I remain optimistic that more parents will curb the role of television in their children’s lives. As a conservative, I’m an advocate of limited government, especially in areas such as media consumption, where we are free to make our own choices. Parents, in aggregate, can wield tremendous influence in the marketplace if we refuse to indiscriminately accept everything the media offer to our children.

Ellen: By the president’s logic, if we don’t like air pollution, should we just stop breathing? The media create an environment, and we can’t raise our children in a bubble. Placing all the responsibility on families and none on large media conglomerates is like sending David out with pebbles to fight Goliath on steroids.

Who Has the Remote? (Registration required, or use BugMeNot.)

More Cartoon Character Assassination

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/05/2005 @ 9:56 am

The Traditional Values Coalition is slamming Shrek 2.

“When you take Pinocchio and show him with women’s underwear on, or you have a transvestite bisexual person, what is that trying to accomplish in the mind of a child?” [Rev. Louis] Sheldon asked. “You’re bringing in a social disorder, gender identity conflict, and you’re throwing it to little children. This is like pumping and positively showing alcoholism and brutality.”

In the Charlotte Observer.

It’s Official: Some Religious Groups Take TV Too Seriously

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/05/2005 @ 9:51 am

Some churches are turning to the teachings of…. Sherriff Andy. And Tom Hanks. And Nemo.

At Pine Valley Church of Christ in Wilmington, N.C., churchgoers watch an episode of “The Andy Griffith Show” and discuss its moral lessons with John Bair, family life involvement minister.

In a session based on the episode “Andy on Trial,” Bair focused on themes such as respecting authority, revenge, boasting and the value of friendship.

While the spirituality of “The Andy Griffith Show” never occurred to many of the program participants, they say they see its moral messages after participating in the Mayberry Series.

Preaching Morals Via Harry Potter, Homer Simpson and Andy Griffith


Mrs. SquarePants Speaks to Ex-Gay Activist

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/04/2005 @ 10:25 am

Leave it to ex-gay expert Warren Throckmorton (PhD!) to snag an interview with the reclusive Mrs. SquarePants. Turns out she’s fed up at all these gay rumors.

“Look,” she says, “sponges go with the flow, and we are sponges. So we are incensed that Dr. Dobson would call my Bobby gay. He is not gay, and I resent Dr. Dobson trying to use him as a political tool.”

Read the entire interview with the sassy sponge.

Breaking News: FCC Denies “Nip/Tuck” Complaints

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/04/2005 @ 10:10 am

The FCC has just announced that it’s denied complaints against the FX show “Nip/Tuck.”

We deny complaints received from individuals who have alleged that the television program “Nip/Tuck,” shown on the FX Network, or various episodes of the program, violate federal restrictions regarding indecent and obscene material. As set forth below, the Commission has indicated that it does not regulate cable indecency or indecency on satellite subscription
services, so we deny that aspect of the complaints. Moreover, nothing in the record indicates that
“Nip/Tuck” meets the legal test for obscenity, so we deny that aspect of the complaints as well.

Question is: Why did they investigate when they don’t regulate cable in the first place…?

Deja Vu All Over Again

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/04/2005 @ 9:42 am

The debate: Is the movie obscene? Some say “ban it.” Others say “show it.”

Says one observer: “There is an increase in religiosity and evangelism. An inability to distinguish between religion and culture has become the norm.”

Says another: “The church has always supported artistic expression. But when a movie tries to denigrate a community, poison the minds of people, then the church has to step in. It’s not a fight of the clergy. It reflects the sentiments of the community as a whole.”

Sound familiar?

It should. But this one’s from India.

When it happens across the globe, it’s “repression.” When it happens at home, it’s “family values.”

Read “Freeing Speech of Its Sins” in The Times of India.

Tunisia Prepares for Free Speech Conference by Limiting Free Speech

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/04/2005 @ 9:30 am

Tunisia, this year’s host of World Summit on the Information Society, is practicing its censorship skills in preparation of the November conference.

The government has blocked internet access to the opposition Progressive Democratic Party, as well as to Radio Non Grata, a website set up to report on the summit.

The conference is to address, among other things, freedom of expression on the Internet.

When it happens across the globe, it’s repression. When it happens here, it’s “family values.”

Via the International Freedom of Expression Exchange.

Wired News: Censor Services Push Forward

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/04/2005 @ 9:16 am

A House subcommittee has fast-tracked a bill that would codify the legality of technology that allows home viewers to skip objectionable content on DVDs.

Some DVD players are currently marketed with the software, but Hollywood claims the technology leads to copyright infringement.

In Wired News

Barton: We Meant Only BASIC Cable

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/04/2005 @ 9:04 am

MediaWeek reports that Congressman Joe Barton has “clarified” legislators’ intent to point their censorship wands at cable TV.

“What we didn’t say is that we want to set standards on premium pay television – things like, like the issue that I’ve been asked, the Sopranos or something, some program of that nature,” quoth Barton.

Elsewhere, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Tim Goodman notes that HBO’s new season of “Deadwood” is surprisingly prescient about the turn of events.

“Warning: Reader Discretion Advised”

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/04/2005 @ 7:44 am

The Chicago Tribune reports on the proliferation of “viewer discretion” warnings.

Warning: Reader Discretion Advised


A SpeakSpeak Bedtime Story

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/03/2005 @ 4:45 pm

Once upon a time, there was a cable company named Adelphia. It wasn’t the biggest cable company in the land, but it was ranked #5 – and #5 is waaaaay better than #6.

One day, the little-cable-company-that-could decided it would offer adult programming to its adult subscribers. See, sometimes adults like to watch, well, “certain programs,” that are made for adults by other adults. It’s sort of like when kids watch “SpongeBob,” or when Mommy watches “Trading Spaces,” or when Daddy watches “American Chopper.” These “certain programs” are like “American Chopper” for horny people.

What’s “horny?” I’ll tell you when you’re older.

Anyway, Adelphia decided to tap in to the horndog market and offer extra-special programming just for adults. Why? Well, because the adults would give Adelphia money, and if Adelphia got more money then it could maybe become the #3 CABLE COMPANY in the country! Number 3 is waaaaay better than #5!

Now, parents are really protective of their children. Remember Hansel and Gretl’s parents? It’s sort of like that. Parents will do anything to protect their children from the Big Bad World – that’s their job! So some people were really, really angry when the Kingdom of Adelphia announced that it would start selling these extra-special programs to adults.

In fact, in the province of Mississippi, there was a man named Donald WildMon who got sooooo angry. Donald WildMon had many followers, in Mississippi and in all of the other provinces, too!

Well, Donald WildMon and his many followers knocked on the door of the Kingdom of Adelphia, and they huffed and puffed. But before they could blow the house down, the Kingdom of Adelphia changed its mind.

Now, not to get off-track, but there’s this new monster named Alberto Gonzales. We’ll call him Grimzales.

Grimzales is one of the most powerful monsters in the whole wide world! He slays obscenity with his magical gavel. Anyway, followers of Donald WildMon are claiming victory over the Kingdom of Adelphia, saying it was the kingdom’s fear of Grimzales that made them cower in the corner of their castle.

The end.

The moral of the story: You might want it, but someone else doesn’t want it for their kids, so you can’t have it.

AFA Issues ‘Gay’ Alert

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/03/2005 @ 4:06 pm

The American Family Association is issuing (another) alert about the now-infamous “We Are Family” video, starring SpongeBob in his queeniest drag get-up and his animated brethren. The video is to be distributed to schools nationwide on March 11th.

The AFA notes that

while nothing questionable in the video itself, the web site for WAFF contained elements that promote the acceptance of homosexuality, including a recommended reading list with such children’s books as ‘Heather Has Two Mommies’ and ‘Daddy’s Roommate.’ There was a “Tolerance Pledge” that encouraged signers to pledge respect for homosexuality, and work against “ignorance, insensitivity and bigotry.”

Read the alert – quick – before your children catch the gay. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

Conservative Group Fights for Free (Hate) Speech

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/03/2005 @ 3:46 pm

“University of Alabama students are reacting to a perceived attack on their First Amendment rights.

Last fall the Faculty Senate at the University of Alabama passed a resolution banning school-sponsored speech that could be considered homophobic, sexist, or racist. In response, the Student Senate passed a free-speech resolution that directly counters the so-called ‘hate speech’ resolution.

In the Agape Press.

Self-Censorship Leads to Cancellation of Service for Visually Impaired

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/03/2005 @ 3:43 pm

A Buffalo, NY, television station has ceased its audio broadcast signal for people with visual impairments after receiving a complaint about a naughty word in a Tom Wolfe novel. The station offered 24-hour readings of newspaper articles, magazines, movie listings and books as a public service on its SAP channel. Fearing FCC fines, the station discontinued the service until its lawyers could advise them on the possibility of being fined.

Meanwhile, in February, the FCC proposed $65,000 in fines against several broadcasting companies for not making certain information available to hearing impaired viewers via closed captioning.

Note to broadcasters: You can’t win. Help us fight the PTC. They started this mess.

Powell: Cable Indecency Regulation Stoopid Unwise

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/03/2005 @ 3:29 pm

Broadcasting & Cable is reporting that lame duck FCC Chair Michael Powell has frowned upon Senator Ted Stevens’ idea of fining cable broadcasters for “indecency” violations. Powell called the potential move “difficult and unwise,” and pointed to a previous Supreme Court ruling that upheld different standards for cable broadcasters.

Kevin Martin, who is widely considered the front-runner for Powell’s seat (or chair, or whatever), is on the record as supporting indecency regulation of cable in lieu of “a la carte” programming (which the broadcasters steadfastly oppose).

Op-Ed: Cartoons “Obsessed” with Introducing Kids to Gayness

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/03/2005 @ 11:24 am

“I was first exposed to the children’s entertainment insanity years ago when the sitcom I was writing for was cancelled and I was suddenly asked to pitch children’s shows. At the time, I didn’t know much about them. As I did my homework and pitched show ideas, I kept running into the same problem: they weren’t interested in shows that honored parents or taught a moral lesson.”

Here Come the Loonatics

O’Reilly Takes a Swipe at Focus on the Family

Filed under  by John Torrey — 03/03/2005 @ 9:46 am

The folks over at Focus on the Family are up in arms over Bill O’Reilly’s Monday night talking points. Apparently, they don’t like it when someone in the media criticizes them… even if it is someone on the Right. The best quote in the story comes from Mr. O’Reilly himself: “SpongeBob is a sponge. He’s not cruising the bars in West Hollywood".

Read the story and find out what Focus on the Family’s of “really meant to say about SpongeBob.”

LA Times: The Best Television Filter Is the Checkbook

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/03/2005 @ 9:25 am

“The simplest solution for consumers who don’t want their kids exposed to cable is to not write a check to the cable company. Those who still want their MTV can use the filters that make it easy to keep unwanted programming from their children. But, as with V-chips that let parents decide what youngsters see and hear on broadcast television, the filters won’t work unless someone exercises the right to say no. As the Supreme Court opinion clearly states, that person should be a parent, not Big Brother.”

In the LA Times.

Cable Indecency Regulation, an Overview

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/03/2005 @ 9:19 am

Read this excellent article, “Congress Mulls Decency Rules for Cable TV,” in TechNewsWorld.

In Summation: Censorship Bad

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/03/2005 @ 8:54 am

Cincinnati columnist Kaitlin McClellan hits the nutshell on the head:

“Although I understand and believe in the right for a person to have their own opinions, does that mean those people should be able to restrict everyone else?”

Censoring out of hand, takes away freedom

News Flash: Anti-Obscenity Campaign = Politics!

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/03/2005 @ 7:39 am

…[T]he Justice Department ought to be focusing on national security issues instead of dirty pictures. Let’s also, for the moment, ignore the fact that American courts have had momentous trouble over the last 40 years developing even the most basic definition of “indecent” or “obscene” material.

Anti-Obscenity Crusade Is Pure Politics, The Morning News (Arkansas).

Note to FCC…

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/03/2005 @ 7:35 am

Philly DJ Michael Smerconish on the difficulties of self-censoring:

Those %$#@-ing #%@$ at at FCC

Columnist Defines “Context” as Service to AFA

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/03/2005 @ 7:29 am

A Mississippi columnist offers this lesson to fellow Mississippians, the American Family Association:

“People who see only a black-and-white world have problems with context. Context is the boil on the … gluteus maximus of smug self-righteousness.

“Context is what makes it OK for even strict Christians to pull his ox, or car, out of a ditch on Sunday, a day of rest.

And “context” is why Saving Private Ryan shouldn’t be edited to contain such lines as “oh, drat it, by gum, hold the phone, Nelly!”

AFA says FCC ‘blue’ it on ‘Ryan’ decision,
The Clarion-Ledger.


Focus on the Family Looks Forward to Obscenity Crimes

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/02/2005 @ 2:43 pm

Commenting on Alberto Gonzales’ vow to aggressively prosecute obscenity, Focus on the Family’s “media and sexuality analyst” let out a big Woo-hoo!

“This is really great news,” the analyst said. “But we also need to see prosecution—vigorous prosecution of mainstream pornographers, thousands of which are operating outside the law and are virtually unimpeded.”

Press release here.

FCC Enforcement Chief Stepping Down

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/02/2005 @ 12:18 pm

David Solomon, who took the helm of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau when it was created in 1999, is leaving quitting.

In MediaWeek.

Christian Groups Fight Springer Musical

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/02/2005 @ 9:15 am

“A planned Broadway run of the trash TV-inspired musical, Jerry Springer – The Opera, is in doubt after pressure from an evangelical Christian group, the show’s producer said yesterday.”

In the Toronto Globe and Mail

Left, Right Agree!

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/02/2005 @ 7:50 am

Finally, some common ground. During a debate on CNBC last night, the Parents Television Council and The Center for Creative Voices in the Media agreed that “a la carte” programming is a happy medium for the culture warriors.

Media conglomerates are as opposed as they can get – they like a captive audience. However, now that Congress is fingering cable’s own dirty laundry, maybe Viacom and friends will reconsider.

Parents TV Council Agrees with CCVM That Indecency Regs Should Not Apply to Cable

Americans Ambivalent about Amendment #1

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/02/2005 @ 7:42 am

“[A] former newspaper journalist and editor illustrated the divide with examples from a study conducted in 2004 by the First Amendment Center. Thirty percent of respondents felt the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees – freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly and the ability to petition the government for a redress of grievances, he said.”

Americans Divided On First Amendment Rights, Expert Says

Wednesday Editorial Roundup

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/02/2005 @ 7:37 am

The FCC stands to make all kinds of money from network TV – Nikki Kallio, Portland (Maine) Press

Rock ‘n’ `Ryan’: The 2 sides of TV censorship – Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune

Down with the First Amendment – John Nichols, The Nation

Repubs Rally ‘Round Cable Regulation

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/02/2005 @ 7:28 am

Congressional Republicans are jumping on the “Save the Airwaves” bandwagon, vowing to extend the FCC’s indecency regulations to cable networks.

Said Senator Ted Stevens, “We put restrictions on the over-the-air signals,” Stevens said after his address to the National Association of Broadcasters, according to news reports confirmed by his staff. “I think we can put restrictions on cable itself. At least I intend to do my best to push that.”

Networks, in turn, are frantically waving a Supreme Court ruling from 2000 that found Congress guilty of First Amendment violations for trying to protect tots from the Playboy Channel.

Here comes the next battle.

GOP pols target indecency on cable TV , Chicago Sun Tims.
Senator Bids to Extend Indecency Rules to Cable, Washington Post

“A Boob’s War on Boobs”

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/02/2005 @ 7:12 am

This beautiful, vitriolic rant ought to get you fired up: A boob’s war on boobs.



No Bull in China’s Shop

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/01/2005 @ 8:13 pm

China plans to toughen its rigorous Internet censorship, filtering all messages sent to chat rooms because “some messages on the Internet are sent by those with ulterior motives".

When it happens across the globe, it’s repression. When it happens here, it’s family values.

Read the whole story.

Banned in Kampala

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/01/2005 @ 4:24 pm

The Ugandan government has banned production “The Vagina Monologues,” saying that the hit play promotes illegal, unnatural sexual acts, homosexuality and prostitution.

“It should be, and is hereby, banned,” said the Uganda Media Council.

Uganda, by the way, is considered among the most liberal of the African nations when it comes to matters of sex.

Read more from allAfrica.

And remember: when it happens across the globe, it’s repression. When it happens here, it’s “family values” at its finest!

Oscar Censored

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/01/2005 @ 10:00 am

“This is the most blatant, immature censorship that I’ve ever come across,” Marc Shaiman about ABC putting the kibosh on his SpongeBob song.

The Talk at the Oscars Is Over What Was Not Said via I Want Media.

Rolling Stone Does the Math

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/01/2005 @ 9:55 am

“For the price of Janet Jackson’s ‘wardrobe malfunction’ during the Super Bowl, you could cause the wrongful death of an elderly patient in a nursing home and still have enough money left to create dangerous mishaps at two nuclear reactors. (Actually, you might be able to afford four ‘nuke malfunctions’: The biggest fine levied by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission last year was only $60,000.)”

Talk about obscene.

In Rolling Stone, via I Want Media.

AFA: FCC Gave “Green Light” to Blue Language

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/01/2005 @ 9:32 am

“The American Family Association (AFA) is denouncing a unanimous decision by the Federal Communications Commission to reject thousands of indecency complaints about the broadcast of Saving Private Ryan. The movie, complete with numerous expletives – a fact acknowledged by the federal agency – was shown on ABC on November 11 as part of Veterans Day programming. Sixty-six of the network stations chose not to air the film for fear of violating FCC standards.”

According to an AFA spokesman, the “Private Ryan” decision paves the way for shock jocks and others to repeatedly air “F-word” snippets from the Spielberg film in a sort of mobius strip of indecency.

Read the press release.

Senator Vows Cable Crackdown

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 03/01/2005 @ 9:22 am

Broadcasting and Cable has just reported that the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Ted Stevens (R-AK), has vowed to crack down on “indecency” on cable TV. Currently, only broadcast television is subject to FCC indecency enforcement.

Story here.

Bloomberg reports that the National Association of Broadcasters is in favor of the move (presumably because they’re the goose and cable is the gander):

“A five-year-old doesn’t know if they’re watching cable or over-the-air,'’ Edward Fritts, president of the National Association of Broadcasters, said in an interview today. The NAB represents TV broadcasters and has advocated that cable should be subject to the same indecency rules.

And in other news, Clear Channel radio is reportedly chatting with Congress about extending the radio crackdown to satellite providers like Sirius and XM.

SpeakSpeak will be sponsoring a letter-writing action. Stay tuned….


SpeakSpeak in Broadcasting & Cable

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/28/2005 @ 4:12 pm

Nice little piece about our efforts to counter the PTC in Broadcasting & Cable.

Keep the letters coming!

Gonzales Vows to Pursue Obscenity

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/28/2005 @ 4:10 pm

In his first official policy speech, delivered today at the Hoover Institution, Alberto Gonzales tacked a bullseye to “obscenity.”

“I am strongly committed to ensuring the right of free speech,” Gonzales said. “But obscene materials are not protected by the First Amendment, and I am committed to prosecuting these crimes aggressively.”

Speech info here.

Broadcasting and Cable pointed out that Gonzo was introduced by Ed Meese, Reagan’s smut vulture. Read more.

News: FCC Denies 3 More Indecency Complaints

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/28/2005 @ 12:47 pm

These against Will and Grace, Arrested Development and Saving Private Ryan.

Arrested Development:

In particular, the episode contains a reference to “making corn-holes” and then “corn-holing” (which the Complaint describes as “slang for anal sex”), within the context of discussions of a corn baller, an implement for making popcorn balls….

PTC complains about four scenes contained in the November 16, 2003, episode of Arrested Development. After review of the Complaint and the videotape of the episode, we conclude that the material is not patently offensive, as defined by Commission precedent, because the cited dialogue is neither sufficiently graphic nor explicit. As PTC acknowledges in its Complaint, virtually all of the language to which it objects was edited from the program prior to broadcast, so that it is not decipherable by viewers. The remaining non-edited language cited in the Complaint as sexual innuendo is ambiguous. Consequently, we conclude that the material in question is not indecent.

Saving Private Ryan

Any consideration of government action against allegedly indecent programming must take into account the fact that such speech is protected under the First Amendment. The federal courts consistently have upheld Congress’s authority to regulate the broadcast of indecent speech, as well as the Commission’s interpretation and implementation of the governing statute.

Nevertheless, the First Amendment is a critical constitutional limitation that demands that, in such terminations, we proceed cautiously and with appropriate restraint….

Contextual considerations are critical in making indecency determinations for two reasons, both of which implicate the First Amendment interests at stake. First, context is important in determining the potential impact of the allegedly indecent material on children – the compelling governmental interest that the Supreme Court held justified regulation of broadcast indecency….

Second, we must consider context in order to minimize intrusion into broadcasters’ speech. Although the courts have upheld Congress’ authority to regulate the broadcast of indecent speech and the Commission’s implementation of the governing statute,31 we must nevertheless proceed with “due respect for the high value our Constitution places on freedom and choice in what the people say and hear.”

…Essential to the ability of the filmmaker to convey to viewers the extraordinary conditions in which the soldiers conducted themselves with courage and skill are the reactions of these ordinary Americans to the barbaric situations in which they were placed. The expletives uttered by these men as these events unfold realistically reflect the soldiers’ strong human reactions to, and, often, revulsion at, those unspeakable conditions and the peril in which they find themselves. Thus, in context, the dialogue, including the complained-of material, is neither gratuitous nor in any way intended or used to pander, titillate or shock.

Will and Grace

“This episode contains a lot of references to drug use and some graphic sexual content.” After review of the Complaint and a videotape of the subject episode provided by the PTC, we find that the material is not “patently offensive.”

New Head of Cable Association Says No to FCC

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/28/2005 @ 8:41 am

Kyle McSlarrow, the incoming president of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, has vowed to fight FCC attempts to regulate the content of cable networks.

“I’ve got three boys and there’s a lot on TV I don’t want them to watch,” he said. But he’s comfortable with the channel-blocking technology cable offers parents. “I don’t want to start making decisions about what other people watch.”

McSlarrow Takes Reins at NCTA


Oscar Says No to SpongeBob Spoof

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/27/2005 @ 11:34 am

At tonight’s Oscars, Robin Williams was to sing an homage to Dobsonesque cartoon controversies, penned by lyricist Marc Shaiman. ABC censors blanched, and demanded changes. Shaiman complied.

ABC then demanded more changes.

When the song was whittled to a ditty as comedic as “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Shaiman gave up.

You won’t be hearing the song tonight.

India’s Censorship Chairman on Censorship’s Benefits

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/27/2005 @ 10:29 am

Malaysia News Online

Columnist to Media: Grow a Spine

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/27/2005 @ 10:12 am

Florida colunmist Eric Deggans laments. We are at the point where a PBS affiliate’s decision not to censor soldiers talking like soldiers is considered “courageous.”

Modern media need to show a little more courage


People for the American Way on Dobson Dynasty

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/26/2005 @ 1:48 pm

“Dobson’s stance – equating tolerance with evil – reflects the extremism of his policy positions and his unforgiving stance toward those who disagree with him. While his comments about SpongeBob were deserving of ridicule, Dobson must not be dismissed as a buffoon. In fact, it is urgently important that journalists and other Americans pay closer attention to the positions Dobson promotes – and his influence with the politicians he is helping get elected.”

PFAW Report.


Religious Broadcasters Fear Stricter Indecency Enforcement

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/25/2005 @ 2:31 pm

“The nation’s religious broadcasters aren’t backing the new indecency-enforcement legislation that passed in the House, fearing a time when their on-air preaching could be redefined as indecent.”

In Broadcasting and Cable.

Moyers on Bozell, et alia

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/25/2005 @ 11:18 am

You write a lot about the right-wing media and right-wing Christianity. Is there a connection there, and do you find it odd that the right-wing conservative networks have led the charge in smutifying the airwaves and that they led the T&A quotient?

Moyers: It’s so interesting that one of the chief critics of smut in television, Brent Bozell, who runs a right-wing media watch group [Media Research Center], is silent when it comes to the public standards of Rupert Murdoch’s sleaze empire. They do have a double standard. They are silent about the fact that it’s capitalism, and that it’s the media tycoons who are polluting the public sphere.

To what extent do you feel that the left has ignored that issue at their own peril? That there is a genuine and sincere outrage over the pornification of the airwaves and that it’s not just right-wing Christians who are offended?

Moyers: This is not a monolithic country, contrary to what people feel. This is not a left or a right country. The networks wouldn’t be making money if there wasn’t a large percentage of people who watch and appreciate that stuff.

Read the entire interview in the Santa Barbara Independent.

(And read how Bozell slammmed “Wild Bill” earlier this week.)

FCC Denies Indecency Complaint Against Angel

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/25/2005 @ 10:42 am

“PTC complains about two scenes - several minutes apart– during the November 19, 2003, episode of Angel. We have attached PTC’s Complaint which summarizes these scenes from the subject episode. After review of the Complaint and the videotape of the episode provided by PTC, we conclude that the material is not “patently offensive'’ as defined by Commission precedent, because the cited material is not sufficiently graphic or explicit. Both scenes are brief. Neither scene at issue contains any nudity and neither is sufficiently graphic or explicit to render the program patently offensive as measured by contemporary community
standards. Consequently, we conclude that the material in question is not indecent.”

Read the decision.

Self-Censorship in Cambodia

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/25/2005 @ 9:19 am

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the editor says his station has reduced its coverage of oppositionists and has been more receptive to official releases from government. He added that the Ministry of Information now wants the station to record all its newscasts and to submit the same to the ministry every month… Meanwhile, the broadcast media is still strictly under government control or influence.

When it’s across the globe, it’s “repression.”

When it’s at home, it’s “family values.”

At International Freedom of Expression Exchange.

India Censor Board Cuts “Harmful” Scenes

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/25/2005 @ 9:07 am

The Film Censor Board of India has scrubbed scenes from the Hindi film “Shabd” because of complaints from the Sikh community that those scenes were “ridiculous and offended the Sikh sentiments.”

The Times of India.


Take That, You Ashcroft!

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/24/2005 @ 2:58 pm

Oscar-nominated Sideways, like other films, has been overdubbed to strip profanity during its in-flight screenings. Turns out the actors inserted a colorful alternative to one of the dirty, dirty words.

Big Budget Egyptian Movie Highlights a Changing Society

Filed under  by John Torrey — 02/24/2005 @ 11:22 am

“The controversial, best-selling Egyptian novel The Yacoubian Building describes a country that is corrupt, unfair and thuggish.” NPR’s Robert Siegel reports on how this movie made it past Egyptian censors and becomes the first to portray a gay relationship between two Egyptian men – in this case one of them is a police officer. Although the movie is being made, it may not be a signal that the Egyptian government is shifting to allow more freedom of speech… just freedom of talk, as explained by the book’s author Alaa Al Aswany.

Read and hear the whole story from All Things Considered.

Right Hand, Meet Left Hand

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/24/2005 @ 11:21 am

A Focus on the Family offshoot says that Hollywood is actually producing more family friendly, Christian-positive movies – up to 45% of H’wood’s total output, they say. (Up from 1% in 1984 )

Maybe they need to send a memo to Brent Bozell…?

Right Hands Out Rotten Bananas

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/24/2005 @ 11:12 am

It’s Oscar week, and the Christian Film Commission is has named its Rotten Banana Award winners.

Rotten Bananas go to films that post the anti trifecta – they “contribute to an immoral culture” by being anti-human, anti-God, and anti-Jesus.

This year’s winners include “Million Dollar Baby,” “Kinsey,” “Farenheit 9/11,” “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” and “Saved!”

The complete honor roll….

India Proposes Official TV Watchdogs

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/24/2005 @ 9:14 am

“If Information and Broadcasting Minister Jaipal Reddy has his way, television censorship will pass into the hands of an independent Broadcast Regulatory Authority of India… That will mean the panel comprising specialists will have to sift through 15,070 hours of feature films and 20,881 hours of news.”

In the Indian Express.

If it happens across the globe, it’s repression. If it happens at home, it’s “family values.”

Frank Rich Indecency Roundup

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/24/2005 @ 9:06 am

From Oscar to Homer, Buster to Bozell: Frank Rich.

How to Speak Up in Nepalese

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/24/2005 @ 9:05 am

After a recent government takeover in Nepal, King Gyandendra shut down the free press and severed telephone communications.

But Nepalese journalists are finding ways around the censorship – through their blogs.

Same Shit, Different Country

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/24/2005 @ 8:39 am

Other countries, particularly in Asia, are having censorship battles of their own. Today we bring you a new news category: CensorWorld.

When it’s across the globe, it’s “repression.”

When it’s at home, it’s “family values.”

What’s the difference? You be the judge.

Here’s a report from India:

“Films corrupt, but television corrupts absolutely!” Be it 18-year-old Sangeeta Mohanty from SNDT women’s college or 40 plus housewife Pushpa from Vile-Parle, the blaring depiction of obscenity on the idiot box has become a major cause of societal or behavioural upheaval. “The police should look into the menace as part of the social responsibility,” said Sangeeta Mohanty as more and more womenfolk are worried about the effect of the ‘western disturbance in the name of techno-logical advancement.’ “I call it abuse of technology,” asserted Additional CP Hemant Nagrale who came down heavily on the ‘amount of vulgarity and obscenity being doled on television’ which is having a negative impact on young impressionable minds.

Police role sought to curb obscenity on TV

Intoxicating? But It Tastes Soooo Good…

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/24/2005 @ 7:44 am

“Saying Bill Moyers might have a ’slight liberal flavor’ is like saying 200-proof alcohol is slightly intoxicating. [Tucker] Carlson and [Paul] Gigot are conservatives on most issues, but their level of rhetorical aggression on the PBS airwaves is no match for Moyers. They’re mild milquetoasts in tone compared to Wild Bill.”

Bozell, in TownHall.com, on a New York Times editorial regarding PBS’ troubles.


Students Protest Proposed Alabama Gay-Book Law

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/23/2005 @ 9:53 am

University of North Carolina students have held public readings of “gay” books that would be banned under a proposed Alabama law. The bill, sponsored by Alabama Rep. Gerald Allen, would prohibit state funds from being used to buy books that mention homosexuality or are written by openly gay authors. UNC protestors are encouraging nationwide action.

UNC students wrapped up 24 hours of reading works that would be prohibited by the bill from authors Plutarch and Oscar Wilde on Tuesday at noon, said McKay Coble, a UNC dramatic arts professor who helped organize the event. Allen’s bill was read at the beginning of each hour.

Coble said she was moved to act after being forwarded an e-mail from a Wellesley College student trying to set up protests around the country.

She said she was impassioned because she said she could not stand the possibility of Alabama students not being able check out works such as William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” or Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple.”

In The Crimson White Online and The Daily Tar Heel.

In the meantime, a Christian rock band has sued an Ohio school district for alleged censorship.

Evangelical Christians Seek America’s ‘Moral Renewal’

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/23/2005 @ 9:44 am

Evangelical Christians believe that a growing number of Americans are rejecting the “1960s counterculture” and are ready to return to a “Judeo-Christian moral consensus.”

More than 900 evangelical Christians from 40 states gathered in Fort Lauderdale last week – to celebrate their agenda’s advance and to see how they can become “more effective agents of moral renewal in American culture,” as a press release put it.

[T]he next 10 to15 years will decide whether America succumbs to a “neo-pagan triumph” or returns to a “Judeo-Christian moral consensus where rape and illegitimacy are rare, marriage and child-rearing are valued, and prisons are converted into museums.

TownHall.com: Evangelical Christians Seek America’s ‘Moral Renewal’

San Diego Councilwoman Seeks Library Smut Filters

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/23/2005 @ 7:41 am

A San Diego city council member is redoubling efforts to install “smut filters” on SD public libraries’ internet terminals. A similar measure failed a year ago. SignOnSanDiego.com

Study up on the history of library internet filters.

Madison Capital Times: PBS Wrong To Self-Censor

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/23/2005 @ 7:31 am

Editorial: PBS Wrong To Self-Censor

FCC Killing PBS?

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/23/2005 @ 7:20 am

This University of Toledo editorial thinks so.

“Indecency” Explained by Morality in the Media Prez

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/23/2005 @ 7:17 am

Citing a Supreme Court decision from 1896, Town Hall wag and Morality in the Media honcho Robert Peters disputes those – including the conservative Heritage Foundation – who say “indecency” is a vague term.

He also says:

…Even assuming that most adults have become as amoral or jaded as the New York and Los Angeles based entertainment media, only a fool would assume that five year olds and ten year olds and fifteen year olds can handle the floodtide of irresponsible and morally debilitating entertainment they are exposed to on TV and radio.

Read more about our debilitated children at TownHall.com.


Florida Principal Pulls Article Exlporing Teen Sexuality

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/22/2005 @ 3:26 pm

Principal Cheryl Alligood sequestered copies of The Wave last week because she doesn’t want her 3,300 students to read a story about sex. The papers had been printed already.

“Anytime you do a topic that could be somewhat controversial, I have to step back and say, what are the possible reactions to this?” Alligood said Monday.

In the Palm Beach Post.

Gonzo Knows It When He Sees It

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/22/2005 @ 3:18 pm

New AG Alberto Gonzales (henceforth known as AG AG) announced today that he would seek to reinstate federal obscenity charges against a California company. According to AG AG, selling/distributing obscenity to paying adult customers is not an act covered by the First Amendment.

It would be the government’s first obscenity case in a decade.

Read the different story from different perspectives:

UK law firm
Baptist Press News
First Amendment Center
Fox News

AFA: Simpsons Prove Hollywood Homo Hegemony

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/22/2005 @ 3:05 pm

Ed Vitagliano, a researcher for the Mississippi-based American Family Association, says anyone who does not believe that Hollywood has a pro-homosexual agenda learned from Sunday’s episode of The Simpsons that that is not the case.

“Even though The Simpsons is generally kind of a wacky animated program, it was still very one-sided in its presentation on the issue of same-sex marriage,” Vitagliano says.

The AFA researcher notes how the pastor in the program, Rev. Lovejoy, was portrayed in the episode.

“Reverend Lovejoy was shown to be rather hypocritical,” Vitagliano says. “He believes that the Bible does not allow same-sex marriage. And yet when Marge tried to show him and explain to him that, as she put it, scriptural scholars disagree on this issue, he simply began ringing the church bell to drown out her supposedly more reasonable approach to the issue.”

Read the whole thing.

Test of Decency Rules Likely

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/22/2005 @ 7:49 am

“Seeking to force federal regulators to more clearly define indecency violations, broadcasters are expected to bring a legal test case as early as next month, according to industry officials.”

LA Times

“Who will lead the charge? D.C. insiders believe the challenge will come from TV, with Fox Broadcasting most often mentioned. In October, all 169 of its affiliates were fined for a “sexually suggestive” scene in Married By America.”



Latest Cartoon Outing: Shrek’s Bartender

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/21/2005 @ 11:17 am

The Traditional Values Coalition is warning parents against the cross-dressing bartender in Shrek2.

V***** Monologues Too Racy for Catholic Colleges

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/21/2005 @ 10:41 am

Moral values are being undermined at 30 Catholic colleges during the weeks surrounding St. Valentine’s day. In fact, many students are afflicted by a play called “The V***** Monologues,” which is scheduled to be held on Catholic campuses throughout the country. (Asterisks added for the sake of modesty).

“This play tramples the 6th Commandment. It degrades women. It contains lesbian behavior and shouldn’t be allowed at any Catholic university,” said TFP Student Action director John Ritchie.

Bishop John M. D’Arcy also issued a public statement after the play performed at the University of Notre Dame in 2004: “Freedom in the academy is always subject to a particular discipline. It is never an absolute… Freedom in the Catholic tradition is not the right to do this rather than that. That would be an entirely superficial idea of freedom… Freedom is the capacity to choose the good.”


Richard Roeper on Big Brother’s Homecoming

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/21/2005 @ 9:48 am

If this was happening in some other country, we’d be shaking our heads in sympathy and wondering how those unfortunate people can put up with living under such an oppressive regime.

Read more.

Bozell on ‘Simpsons’ GayFest

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/21/2005 @ 9:46 am

“At a time when the public mood is overwhelmingly against gay marriage, any show that promotes gay marriage is deliberately bucking the public mood,” he told the New York Times.

“I’d rather them not do it at all. You’ve got a show watched by millions of children. Do children need to have gay marriage thrust in their faces as an issue ? Why can’t we just entertain them?”

In the New York Times.

O’Reilly: Sponge Bob’s Personal Savior

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/21/2005 @ 9:24 am

Says Bill: “I saved SpongeBob’s reputation. SpongeBob’s my best friend now.”

At MediaMatters.

Oscar: To Bleep or Not to Bleep?

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/21/2005 @ 9:21 am

Oscar producer Gil Cates on the Academy Awards tape delay:

The reason I’m against the delay is that it is difficult to draw a distinction between censorship because of something like profane language, for example, or because of provocative political statements.

I think it’s wrong to have a tape delay because we run the risk of infringing upon the right to free speech. When you take that away, we are handing over our Constitutional rights to one person who decides for hundreds of millions of other people what is appropriate for them to see. In my opinion, the occasional embarrassment we might suffer is the price of democracy.

It can be very hard to make the distinction between what one might consider “inappropriate language” and “political commentary.” And the person with their finger on the button has got to make a very quick decision.

Oscar host Chris Rock on the Academy Award tape delay:

“I hope there’s a time delay,” says Rock. “It’s a safety net. You know, you’re a trapeze artist … you welcome the net.”

[via I Want Media]

Bozell Proclaims Feb. “Lesbian Month”

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/21/2005 @ 9:06 am

“We can understand that PBS’s lesbian moms didn’t kiss on screen or explicitly tout gay marriage. We know it wasn’t anything like “Tongues Untied,” the wild gay documentary many PBS stations aired in 1991, complete with very explicit sex talk and F-words. But PBS stations promise in nearly every pledge drive and every appearance before Congress that their daytime programming is a safe haven for parents to use with their preschool children. That’s not the case when some PBS activists are actively trying to indoctrinate 4-year-olds.”

But wait – there’s more!


Newsday: Save Money, Cut the FCC

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/20/2005 @ 9:21 am

Of all the baffling things the Federal Communications Commission has done in my 35 years of watching the agency not protecting the public interest - such as the giveaway of the public airwaves that I described last week - the most baffling is its current campaign against indecency.

I couldn’t believe that the FCC - laughingly known as the Federal Comatose Commission by those who’ve wanted it to do something all these years about diversity, quality and overcommercialization by the corporate entertainment nexus controlling our airwaves - suddenly woke up and noticed that indecency is a danger to the republic.

Marvin Kitman says it.


The Simpsons Re-Enter the Culture Wars

Filed under  by John Torrey — 02/19/2005 @ 9:50 pm

This Sunday night, the cititzens of Springfield decide to legalize gay marriage in an effort to boost town revenue. The real-world Right doesn’t know whether to be angry about this prime-time light shining on America’s most controversial issue or to laugh a little with the rest of the country as one of the animated Springfielders gets outed. WWFD? (What Would Flanders Do?)
ABCNews.com has coverage of the half-controversy

Speech Free?

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/19/2005 @ 9:16 am

Seattle Post-Intelligencer free speech poll: Intro, results.


“We cannot include the right to obscenity, vulgarity and pornographic material,” he insists. “There is TOO MUCH of it now in the movies, TV and all other forms of written and spoken words. I personally believe it has diminished our status as decent human beings.”


“Until Americans are willing to question why bloody corpses are sanctified as free speech while nudity and sexuality are condemned as obscene,” Devincent says, “we don’t even have freedom of thought, let alone freedom of speech.”

View from Canada: The Culture Wars

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/19/2005 @ 9:14 am

If it has been a very bad year for indecency on the airwaves, as some conservative groups contend, it has been a very good year for the PTC….

You’d have to reach back a decade and a half to find the last time that the arts in the United States faced similar co-ordinated attacks. Back then, the targets were primarily publicly funded organizations.

in the Toronto Globe and Mail


Frontline Producers to PBS: “Grow a Spine”

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/18/2005 @ 7:59 am

The executive producers of Frontline sent an excoriating memo to PBS regarding their censorship of US soldiers in Iraq (who may understandably be in the mood for four-letter words).

from Romenesko

Rep. Bernard Sanders Statement against the Indecency Act

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/18/2005 @ 7:51 am

Mr. Speaker,

I am increasingly alarmed by the culture of censorship that seems to be developing in this country, and I will not be voting for this bill today. This censorship is being conducted by the corporate owners of our increasingly consolidated, less diverse media. And it is being done by the government. This result is an insidious chill on free expression on our airwaves.

There are a lot of people in Congress who talk about freedom, freedom and freedom but, apparently, they do not really believe that the American people should have the “freedom” to make the choice about what they listen to on radio or watch on TV. There are a lot of people in Congress who talk about the intrusive role of “government regulators,” but today they want government regulators to tell radio and TV stations what they can air.

Read the entire statement.

Spellings vows not to Participate in Culture Wars

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/18/2005 @ 7:36 am

“Although new Education Secretary Margaret Spellings recently denounced a public television children’s cartoon for including lesbian characters, she said she will not participate in culture wars in the nation’s public schools, according to news reports. Spellings, 47, a former Houston resident, refused in an interview with the Houston Chronicle last week to discuss gay students or students with gay parents and how they should be treated in public schools, media outlets reported. ‘I’m not going to sit up here in Washington, D.C., and try to dictate that, but when federal tax dollars for programming that is widely available for preschoolers for the specific task of school readiness, I just think we can do those things and achieve those goals in a way that does not incite controversy,’ Spellings told the Chronicle.

New York Blade Online


Are You Decent?

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/17/2005 @ 4:28 pm

The Austin Chronicle explores the effects of self-censorship on the people it affects most – the broadcasters. (And hey, SpeakSpeak gets a mention….)

PBS Distributes ‘Clean,’ ‘Raw’ Iraq Films

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/17/2005 @ 4:20 pm

PBS is distributing to its affiliates two versions of a Frontline episode devoted to the war in Iraq – one with soldiers’ potty mouths cleaned up.

PBS is also warning its stations that if they want to put themselves at risk of an FCC fine for language, the system can’t insure them. To air the raw version, stations must sign a statement acknowledging the financial risk is theirs.

PBS distributes ‘clean,’ ‘raw’ Iraq film

MediaCitizen: Obscenity on the Hill

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/17/2005 @ 10:54 am

MediaCitizen: Obscenity On The Hill

Inside the Debate for Indecency Enforcement

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/17/2005 @ 10:42 am

Read what the Reps are saying.

“Louise McIntosh Slaughter, Dem., N.Y. ‘Ever since the Reagan administration rescinded the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 our broadcast standards have not only been in just a steep decline but they are fast approaching extinction.

When newspeople present political opinion as hard news with no accountability or fact for truth, I call that indecent. When it becomes common practice to pay members of the media to deceptively advocate a political agenda on public airwaves without disclosure to the public, I call that indecent.’”

Inside the Debate for Indecency Enforcement

Adelphia Cable Paving Way for Crack?

Filed under  by John Torrey — 02/17/2005 @ 9:48 am

The “Concerned Women for America” have posted a warning to Americans that cable company Adelphia’s decision to begin offerring hard core pornography via PPV is the first step on a slippery slope that eventually leads to crack-flavored Slurpees at 7-11….

Read all about the growing crack marketing synergy.

Parents control kids, TV doesn’t

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/17/2005 @ 9:02 am

“Politicians say it’s Hollywood’s fault. Hollywood says it’s the parents’ fault. Parents say it’s the politicians’ fault for not stopping Hollywood.

Before those pointed fingers hurt someone, let’s pin down the problem: It’s not so much what’s on TV, but what children are seeing. So before parents point a finger, they should lift it. They do have tools to control what their children watch.”

Parents control kids, TV doesn’t | csmonitor.com [via I Want Media]

Variety: Moral majority?

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/17/2005 @ 9:00 am

“Speaking of the indecency bill, a First Amendment lawyer familiar with the background of both federal actions said, ‘This is obviously something that will not be resolved by either Congress or the FCC. It’ll probably end up in the courts.’”

Variety.com - Moral majority [via I Want Media]


PTC on House Indecency Vote: “Cha-Ching!”

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/16/2005 @ 5:58 pm


House Increases Indecency Fines

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/16/2005 @ 12:50 pm

“This is a penalty that makes broadcasters sit up and take notice,” said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee that sent the bill to the full House. “This legislation makes great strides in making it safe for families to come back into their living room.”

House Increases Indecency Fines (washingtonpost.com)

How they voted…

Conservative Think Tank Says ‘Use Your Remote’

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/16/2005 @ 8:22 am

“The most powerful weapons consumers wield are their own remote controls. As conservatives know well, the best regulation comes not from government but from individuals making choices for themselves. Rather than look to Washington for answers, we should look to our own thumbs,” says the Heritage Foundation in this good synopsis of the indecency fight.

PBS President Stepping Down

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/16/2005 @ 8:13 am

“Embattled PBS President Pat Mitchell has announced she will step down next year in the wake of a battle over a children’s program featuring lesbian parents.”

New York Post


FCC: Cell Phones Obscene!

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/15/2005 @ 3:12 pm

Reuters: “U.S. communications regulators are turning their sights on protecting children from indecency on mobile telephones after cracking down on television and radio stations for indecent antics.”

Hollywood Union to Challenge Pending Indecency Bill

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/15/2005 @ 10:48 am

“The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) is challenging the constitutionality of new legislation in Congress that would increase broadcast performers’ fines for indecency from $11,000 to $500,000. The Screen Actors Guild is also pushing for amendments to protect actors.

The 80,000 member-strong AFTRA has expressed puzzlement over H.R. 310, the bill under which “individuals would be fined at the same level as large corporate broadcast stations,” according to information provided by AFTRA to its members.”


FRC: Indecency Enforcement Should Strike “Fear of God” in Broadcasters

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/15/2005 @ 9:24 am

The Family Research Council on the state of the “pro-decency” campaign:

Why is a major corporation deciding it’s okay to make money on illegal, obscene material?” he asks rhetorically – then offers the answer. “The answer is lack of enforcement by the Justice Department. This decision would never be even considered had the Justice Department over the last several years been vigorous in prosecuting obscenity.”

Powell’s Replacement: Here Comes the Dark Horse

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/15/2005 @ 8:44 am

“[Kevin] Martin’s voting record has made him an unreliable ally of deregulation and the high-tech industry. That’s why some advocacy groups are backing a dark-horse candidate as a worthy heir to Powell: Peter Pitsch, who’s currently an Intel lobbyist.”

Handicapping the race for FCC chairmanship | CNet

TownHall on McCartney Halftime

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/15/2005 @ 8:32 am

There’s a point buried somewhere in this commentary, but I can’t find it….

Professor: Indecency Crusade to Last 2 More Years

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/15/2005 @ 8:25 am

“George Washington University prof Chris Sterling forecasts the indecency flap will “expand” this year and next, because of election pressures. Then he thinks the federal courts will begin to be heard - and ‘the family-saving fervor may have diminished, as it has many times in the past.’ ” [via I Want Media]

Smut Bill Update

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/15/2005 @ 8:21 am

Broadcast Indecency Enforcement Act expected to pass the House this week.


Even Scientists Feel They Must Self-Censor

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/11/2005 @ 11:10 am

“Some scientists are thinking twice about doing or reporting certain research, reacting to political and social controversy in addition to legal restrictions.

“One researcher, commenting on avoiding controversial work, said, ‘I would like to lunatic-proof my life as much as possible.’”


To Our New Friends in Erie, PA

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/11/2005 @ 7:58 am


As promised, you can send a thank-you note to your PBS affiliate, WQLN, from our letters page.

And hey – we’d like to keep you in the loop. Please sign up for our spam-free e-alerts.

Dobson Stands Up for Himself

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/11/2005 @ 7:21 am

“It is not unusual for me to be unfairly criticized by the secular media, but rarely have I been subjected to a more mean-spirited, inaccurate and sarcastic diatribe…”

HollandSentinel.com -Political bias distorted facts 02/11/05

Broadcasters, Unions Eye Indecency Fight

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/11/2005 @ 7:05 am

The broadcast networks and some Hollywood unions are discussing ways to attack the constitutional underpinnings of the nation’s indecency laws, which are in the process of being tightened by the U.S. House of Representatives, sources said.

While no one would talk about it officially, the telecommunications community is buzzing about a new lawsuit that will make a direct free-speech challenge to the indecency laws and their interpretation.

Broadcasters, Unions Eye Indecency Fight (washingtonpost.com)


The O.C. to Show Lesbian Kiss

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/10/2005 @ 8:23 am

While PBS smolders over last month’s flap about lesbian parents on the children’s show Postcards From Buster, Fox is in the middle of a story line on The O.C. featuring young women whose relationship turns sexual Thursday night

In USA Today.


Droopy Drawers to Cost Virginians $50?

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/09/2005 @ 12:47 pm

In other indecency news, the Virginia legislature has passed a bill that would impose a $50 fine on low-riding pants. It now moves to the state senate.

Smut Bill Whizzes through House Committee

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/09/2005 @ 12:43 pm

The bill, which could raise indecency fines to $500,000 per incident, passed by a vote of 46-2.

I Want Media: Sirius CEO on Indecency Crackdown

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/09/2005 @ 10:37 am

I Want Media has CEO of Sirius Satellite Radio Mel Karmazin’s take on the obscenity wars.

At Least 45 Stations to Air “Sugartime!”

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/09/2005 @ 10:09 am

WGBH announced today that over 45 PBS affiliates have decided to air “Sugartime,” despite criticism and threats from Secretary of Ed. Margaret Spellings.

Gay-Themed High School Play Sparks VA Protests

Filed under  by John Torrey — 02/09/2005 @ 10:06 am

A new play called “Offsides” (the story of a football player realizing he’s gay and which reportedly contained a kiss between two male students) written and directed by a student at a Virginia high school has raised the ire of the right. Apparently, they’re working on the Beetlejuice rule…say “gay” too many times and they just might show up at your kid’s school. The saddest part of the article is the last line:
“Jess emphasized at last night’s school board meeting that the actors never kissed. “It was completely staged,” she said.”
Read the outrage in The Washington Post

Ban the Gay Books?

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/09/2005 @ 8:55 am

An Alabama lawmaker has proposed a gay book ban.

Ho-Hum Super Bowl Generates Letters to FCC

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/09/2005 @ 8:31 am

MediaWeek reports that the FCC has received 33 “comments” regarding the Super Bowl. Most referred to the ho-hum ads. Two complained about ho-hum McCartney’s mention of “California grass.” A couple complained about the ho-humness of the un-spectacle. And a few even complained, again, about last year’s halftime show.


FCC to Speed Up Complaint Reviews

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/09/2005 @ 8:26 am

The Federal Communications Commission is overhauling the system it uses to process complaints about indecency on the public airwaves after struggling to deal with the flood of concerns it received last year over the content of television and radio shows.

In the Washington Post.

American Family Association Slammed for Orgy Clip

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/09/2005 @ 8:20 am

When Marly Dirksen stumbled upon her husband Rich watching a pornographic video on the internet, he didn’t blush with embarrassment and promise to seek counseling. In fact, the 42-year-old electrical engineer and father of two swore that he’d been doing nothing wrong. After all, to watch the teenage sex orgy Mr. Dirksen didn’t have to visit an adult website specializing in teen sexual encounters. Instead, he found the footage on the homepage of the American Family Association, an organization that prides itself on standing up for traditional family values.

The PTC has made this clip available on its site as well.

New rule: If it’s on one of these moral-high-ground sites, it’s not obscene.


PBS Needs Our Help (sticky)

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/08/2005 @ 10:39 am

SpeakSpeak received a press release from PBS today regarding an upcoming episode of “American Experience.” On February 14, “American Experience” will detail the life and work of Alfred Kinsey.

When the film “Kinsey” was released last year, religious groups protested.

If recent history tells us anything, it’s that they’ll use this documentary to futher back PBS into a corner.

We need to get to work. Head off the attack: Tell PBS you support their decision to air this program before the Right unleashes its moral outrage.

Send a letter now.

You Made a Difference!

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/08/2005 @ 10:00 am

“I’m just glad I’m not in (PBS’) PR department right now,” says Tara Taylor, a publicist at Oregon Public Broadcasting. “We’ve had an overwhelming response from viewers who want to see [Sugartime!].”

Check out this article on the cartoon controversy at Oregon Live.


Snagglepuss Is a Given, but Mr. Slate?? Who Knew?

Filed under  by John Torrey — 02/07/2005 @ 10:33 pm

Coming to the rescue of their Spongy bretheren, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Cartoon Alliance outs themselves.

Check out the full story on Salon. (As always, you’ll need to watch an ad to see the full story.)

It’s worth it just for the quote: “They’re only human beings,” he says gently. “They just don’t have the kind of depth that we do.”

(Note from Amanda: Here’s a variation on that theme from the LA Times.)

Alert: Equal and Opposite Reaction (sticky)

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/07/2005 @ 5:54 pm

The Family Research Council, one of the torch-bearers for the Battle Against Obscenity, is lobbying for President Bush to pick an FCC Chairman who will rain fire and brimstone on naughty broadcasters.

Just as Focus on the Family did last week, the FRC has provided a handy “Give-the-President-a-Shout-Out” form. (It’s one we hope to someday invest in, but at this point – why bother?)

Take advantage of the FRC’s generosity and send the Prez a letter asking him to help put an end to this obscenity business.

You can write your own letter, or cut and paste the one here.

As always, please forward a copy to info [at] speakspeak [dot] org.

“Cartoons Used to Be for Little Kids” Cries Outraged Columnist

Filed under  by John Torrey — 02/07/2005 @ 3:09 pm

In light of the recent Spongebob uproar, columnist Jane Jimenez points out that animation just ain’t what it used to be. “It used to be enough to make a cute little cartoon to entertain children. In the early days of television, while Bugs battled with Elmer Fudd, parents cooked dinner in the next room.”

Apparently, no one noticed that Elmer and Bugs spent the bulk of their time together shooting each other in the face….

Read the full column here

Placing a Hit on the Sopranos?

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/07/2005 @ 8:52 am

The Right is again pushing for FCC regulation of satellite and cable networks, according to the Washington Times. (Via I Want Media.)

NFL Persuades Fox to Pull 2nd “Go Daddy” Ad

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/07/2005 @ 8:42 am

After airing an ad for GoDaddy.com during the first half of the Super Bowl, NFL persuaded Fox not to run the ad during the second half.

Why? The GoDaddy ad centered on a Hooter-esque woman’s wardbrobe malfunction.

GoDaddy’s hoppin’ mad.


Right-Wing Group Loses Off-Switch; Hopes Not to be Outraged

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/04/2005 @ 2:59 pm

Concerned Woman for America, a Right-Wing group that’s been active in the indecency debate, is seemingly being forced to watch Sunday’s Super Bowl, even though it’s fearful that it might see something icky.

“Pro-family groups say they will be keeping a close eye on this year’s Super Bowl broadcast this weekend and hope they will not see a repeat of last year’s R-rated programming.

“Jan LaRue of Concerned Women for America (CWA) is braced for the February 6 Bowl game and its Halftime presentation. ‘I’m hopeful that we won’t be outraged by an offensive show coming into our homes on a Sunday afternoon as we were in last year’s Super Bowl,’ she says.”

Here’s hoping….

Meet Ralphie

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/04/2005 @ 2:17 pm

Tired of this plague of gay and gay-friendly cartoon characters?

Meet Ralphie!

More “Buster Bluster”

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/04/2005 @ 2:01 pm

The Washington Post has an excellent piece on the furor over Buster, and on how PBS has changed (i.e., weakened) with the times.

House Indecency Bill Fast-Tracked

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/04/2005 @ 10:00 am

“Newly re-introduced indecency legislation that was overwhelmingly passed by the House of Representatives last March will be taken up by committee - rather than the usual subcommittee assignment for a new bill - within the next two weeks, according to Hill insiders.”

Billboard: Indecency Bill Fast-Tracked In The House

NY Times’ Frank Rich weighs in on ‘The Year of Living Indecently’

Filed under  by John Torrey — 02/04/2005 @ 8:47 am

Frank Rich, NY Times Associate Editor, weighs in on the current McCarthy-like state of our Union. “The Washington indecency crusade has unleashed a wave of self-censorship on American television unrivaled since the McCarthy era.”
Read the whole piece here.


Postcards of Intolerance

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/02/2005 @ 7:07 pm

LA Weekly has a great piece about the recent religious-Right-driving censorship.

LA Weekly: Post Cards of Intolerance

House Indecency Bill Expected to Move Quickly

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/02/2005 @ 5:27 pm

“Legislation to significantly hike fines for broadcasters airing indecent material will move quickly in the U.S. House of Representatives, leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said on Wednesday. House lawmakers have proposed boosting fines on stations and entertainers to as much as $500,000 per violation, up from the current $32,500. “

The Senate bill would cap the fines at $325,000.

Read more.

PBS Fears Funding Flap over Buster

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/02/2005 @ 4:09 pm

Read in USA Today.

NPR on Buster

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/02/2005 @ 3:59 pm

NPR’s “Day to Day” on some PBS affiliates’ decision to air “Sugartown!”

Buster: To Air or Not To Air?

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/02/2005 @ 2:11 pm

Buster-Friendly Affliates:

KQED (San Francisco)
WGBH (Boston)
WMHT (Schenectady, NY)
KOPB (Portland, Oregon): Will air at 10:30 p.m. and 4:30 a.m.
KCET (Los Angeles)
KSPS (Spokane)
KBDI (Denver)
TPT (St. Paul, MN)
KVIE (Sacramento)
KCTS (Seattle)
KYVE (Yakima, WA)

If you know of others, please let us know. If you haven’t emailed your affiliate yet – why not?

Buster-Hostile Affiliates:

KUED (University of Utah)
KBYU (Brigham Young University)
WVIZ (Cleveland)
WEAO (Akron, OH)
WNEO (Youngstown, OH)
LPB (Louisiana Public Broadcasting and affiliates)
WCET (Cincinnati)
WCVN (Lexington, KY)

WMPT (Maryland)
WGTE (Toledo)
WBGU (Bowling Green, OH)
WEDU (Tampa)
Maine PBS (Portland, ME)

PTC Says MTV Is ‘Blatantly Selling Raunch to Kids’

Filed under  by John Torrey — 02/02/2005 @ 1:47 pm

The PTC’s released a new report on the state of things over at MTV: “The Parents Television Council (PTC), the nation’s most influential advocacy organization protecting children against sex, violence and profanity in entertainment, released a new study, ‘MTV Smut Peddlers: Targeting Kids with Sex, Drugs and Alcohol,’ which found that MTV programming contains staggering levels of sex and foul language – far higher than anything found on adult-targeted television.”
Read the rest of the “report” here.
Check out the AP coverage of the story here.

MSNBC on the Aftermath of The Nipple

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/02/2005 @ 9:30 am

Read it here.

Spellings Stands by Remarks

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 02/02/2005 @ 7:38 am

Kansas City Star: Education chief stands by remarks
“When people turn on the Public Broadcasting System, they expect to get something that is very straight down the line that is educationally oriented,” Spellings said. “And I think that particular topic, of sexuality and lifestyles, are things that need to be introduced by parents and families in their own way and in their own time.”

Have you written to Margaret Spellings yet? Do it now!


Bush to PTC: Lay Off! (Sort of…)

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 01/28/2005 @ 8:47 am

From Broadcasting and Cable:

Calling himself a free speech advocate, President George W. Bush says that parents, not government, are the “first line of responsibility when it comes to protecting children from indecent TV programming. ‘They put an off button on the TV for a reason. Turn it off.”

But Bush did say there is a role for regulators. The government, can, “at times, not censor, but call to account programming that gets over the line.”

The President said that when he interviews a new FCC Chairman, he will ask where he thinks that line is, but later clarified that that was not a litmus test.

Asked for his take on legislation to increase fines, Bush quipped, “They’re going to collect a lot of money when some of these TV shows are still on.”

Read the article and interview transcript.


Wardrobe Malfunction Not a Laughing Matter

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 01/26/2005 @ 2:36 pm

Can’t spoof “wardrobe malfunctions” during Super Bowl commercials.

Someone might be offended.


Broadcast Indecency Enforcement Act

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 01/25/2005 @ 1:17 pm

The proposed legislation to raise indecency fines was resurrected today. The maximum fine is $32,500 per incident.

The bill stalled last session, but is expected to pass this time after some retooling.

More later….


For the Umpteenth Time, Private Ryan Not Indecent!

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 01/24/2005 @ 4:03 pm

“A majority of U.S. communications regulators have voted to deny viewer complaints that ABC television stations violated indecency rules when they aired the movie “Saving Private Ryan” last November, an FCC official said on Monday.”

Entertainment News Article | Reuters.com

FCC Denies 36 of the PTC’s Indecency Complaints

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 01/24/2005 @ 11:11 am

The FCC has denied 36 indecency complaints made against various programs. Look for Bozell later today.

A list of the 36 denials can be found in the FCC’s smackdown.

Some favorites:

“Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me,'’ January 8, 2003, 8 p.m. EST: musical number during which the title character’s naked torso and genital area are blocked by objects, furniture, and, in one instance, by his hands. Later scenes include the use of the phrase “fat bastard,'’ and the word “testicles.'’
In another scene from this film, a male and a female character are in bed together, but no sexual or excretory organs or activities are depicted or discussed.

‘’Friends,'’ May 1, 2003, 8 p.m. EST:
a female character and her husband encounter the husband’s former girlfriend at a medical office. After a conversation concerning fertility treatment, the female character says that she has to go because she’s got “an invasive vaginal exam to get to.'’

“Run of the House,'’ October 23, 2003, 9 p.m. EST:
a female character teases her brother about dating a woman who looks like his mother and, after her brother and his girlfriend have been in the hot tub, tells him “I know what you’re doing.'’

“Scrubs,'’ November 13, 2003, 9:30 p.m. EST:
in one scene, there is a discussion among a male character, his fiancée, and her brother in which the male character antagonizes the brother by telling the fiancée he wants to “love her up and down and all around,'’ and that they should “go put some more of your footprints on the ceiling.'’ The brother reacts angrily, saying “that’s it you son of a bitch.'’ In another scene, a male doctor tells a female resident that he would rather listen to her “go on and on about the joys of
dolphin sex.'’

“Gilmore Girls,'’ November 18, 2003, 8 p.m. EST:
in one scene, a character’s grandfather reminisces about college pranks involving

Where Do We Go from Here?

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 01/24/2005 @ 10:42 am

Now that FCC chair Michael Powell is the lamest of ducks, questions about the future of the FCC’s indecency enforcement abound. Powell has mentioned that acting as the potty-mouth police made him uncomfortable.

In the past, he decried the knee-jerk activism of the Parents Television Council’s members: “You’ll get an advocacy group that purports to speak for a huge audience – I don’t know how many members they have – and they will have their members write you, and their members have heard what that association tells them is the problem, and you’ll get a lot of postcards or you’ll get a lot of e-mails.”

Powell acted as if the indecency firestorm was brought on by a single boob flash and was the brainchild of organized advocacy groups.

Well, he’s right about that.

But what no one has brought to light is that the Parents Television Council started this movement with the support and at the urging of FCC commissioners.

Here’s an excerpt from a letter that (Democratic) Commissioner Michael Copps sent to PTC prez Brent Bozell in 2003, well before The Nipple made its appearance:

“I am, as you know, tremendously pleased with the work that you, the Parents Television Council and the other organizations that have joined with you, are doing in America’s battle against indecency on the public airwaves…. I look forward to continuing to work with you on all this, convinced as I am that the moment is at hand when the people’s righteous anger can be turned into a righteous policy against those who so flagrantly misuse their trust as stewards of the public airwaves.” (Commissioner Michael Copps, 2003)

And Martin, who has received the PTC’s fawning endorsement for the chairmanship, has been quite a friend to the PTC himself. During a speech to the National Association of Television Programming Executives in 2003 (also pre-nipple), Martin advocated using the FCC’s “bully pulpit” to persuade broadcasters to “re-think their approach to family-friendly programming.”

Martin is also fond of citing PTC “research,” and once did so in front of a Senate committee hearing on protecting children from bad TV. Martin is an advocate for “per-utterance” fines against broadcasters. He supports legislation that would create a tenfold increase the maximum indecency fine per incident.

Martin has downplayed notion of parental responsibility, stating that the FCC “plays an important role in protecting Americans, particularly children, from indecent programming.” And what about the V-chip, which is installed on every US television manufactured after 2000 and was mandated in order to help parents baby-sit their kids? No good, he says. “Few parents know about these technologies, and of those that do, fewer still can figure out how to make them work.”

Martin heads the short list for Powell’s replacement. A good friend of the administration, his current status as commissioner would make him exempt from Senate confirmation.

The nutshell?

The FCC helped start this battle. Two of its commissioners actively encouraged Brent Bozell to pursue indecency complaints, while the outgoing chairman summed up the PTC’s efforts as “spam.”

But as public opinion segues from dropped-jaw nipple-rage to a collective eye-roll over a pixilated cartoon baby butt, and as the leadership of the FCC changes, we ponder the future.

Where do we go from here?

The FCC needs a new image

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 01/24/2005 @ 8:36 am

“Something is definitely wrong in the U.S., which supposedly cherishes free speech and freedom of the press, when TV stations across the country were afraid to air ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ Steven Spielberg’s film depicting heroic GIs in World War II. It contained lots of cursing and violent scenes. The stations balked because they were terrified that they would be fined by the FCC.”

Jon Friedman’s Media Web

Los Angeles Times: FCC Finds Itself Up to Its Neck in Hot Issues

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 01/24/2005 @ 8:25 am

The FCC reports on the road ahead at the FCC:

FCC Up to Its Neck in Hot Issues

PTC on Powell

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 01/24/2005 @ 8:20 am

Brent Bozell speaks out on Powell’s resignation: While Powell led the FCC, “bestiality, masturbation, oral sex, anal sex and pedophilia became FCC-sanctioned topics on prime time network television.”

PTC Eager for New Leadership at FCC


Powell Was ‘Uncomfortable’ with Indecency Battle

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 01/22/2005 @ 9:23 pm

Powell tells the Washington Times** that he’s leaving “because regulating the content of television and radio programming clashed with his belief in free speech.” Story here .

[**The Washington Times is, of course, a slightly uncomfortable source.]

Unfortunately, the commonly accepted front-runner for the FCC chairmanship is Kevin J. Martin, Bush patron and friend of the PTC.

More on him soon….


Ultra-Right Family Research Council on Michael Powell

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 01/21/2005 @ 5:17 pm

The Family Research Council sent an e-missive today about Michael Powell’s resignation. Text below.

“Michael Powell is announcing today that he will vacate his chair, or should we say hot seat, at the Federal Communications Commission. This presents a profound opportunity for the President to make an impact on our nation’s culture. The FCC enforces indecency law on broadcast television and radio, and during Powell’s tenure the FCC record on enforcement was mixed at best. When we first approached Michael Powell early on in the Bush Administration about cleaning up the flood of illegal material on radio and television, he gave us little hope that he would. But broadcasters overstepped even Powell’s tolerance level for indecency with the Janet Jackson Superbowl “wardrobe malfunction” and rock singer Bono’s use of the f-word during a televised music awards ceremony. Powell began to lead an effort among FCC commissioners to enforce the law. President Bush should find someone who understands the powerful and negative impact of media on our nation’s children - someone who will vigorously enforce indecency laws.

To get a better feel for the FRC, visit People for the American Way

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 01/21/2005 @ 4:28 pm

Fox decides against airing Super Bowl on an obscenity-proof five-second delay.

Nation hopes to be spared a Paul McCartney wardrobe malfunction.

In USA Today.

Bochco Says TV Climate Too Conservative

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 01/21/2005 @ 4:22 pm

“I don’t think today we could launch or sell a show like ‘NYPD Blue,"‘ Says Steven Bochco, creator of NYPD Blue. “So you stop doing them,” he said. “It’s a setback.”

Read it

The Future Post-Powell?

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 01/21/2005 @ 1:40 pm

Alternet has published an interesting analysis of the Powell era from various reliable sources: AlterNet.

China Battles Its Own “Smut War”

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 01/21/2005 @ 11:28 am

“An unremitting battle against pornographic and illegal publications will continue to safeguard a healthy cultural environment”

Read it in the China Daily News.

When Freedom Becomes an F-Word

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 01/21/2005 @ 7:02 am

“Indeed, the networks have noticed that they have less freedom and that, in addition to answering to their customers, they must also pander to increasingly strict government censors. Freedom of thought, content, and speech is constrained in countries like Saudi Arabia or even China, but this is not the type of thing one expects in freedom-loving America. A country that prides itself on freedom of the individual now finds itself in a situation where networks preemptively censor themselves for fear of the government indecency patrol.”

In TechNewsWorld

MSNBC - FCC chairman to resign Friday, CNBC confirms

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 01/21/2005 @ 6:57 am

FCC chair Michael Powell is expected to resign today.

The appointment of his replacement will certainly have an effect on the battle over obscenity.

Strap on your helments.

MSNBC - FCC chairman to resign Friday, CNBC confirms


PBS Update: “We’re Not Cutting Scenes. Really!”

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 01/20/2005 @ 2:45 pm

PBS press release, via TV Barn.

SpeakSpeak members have sent over 100 letters to PBS execs. Haven’t sent yours yet? Do it now.

Paris Hilton Dirties the Airwaves

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 01/20/2005 @ 2:37 pm

Paris dropped an F-bomb last Friday while playing with a NJ fire dispatcher’s radio.

Turns out that’s a violation of FCC obscenity regs.

Who wants to start a pool on when the PTC will complain, how many complaints the FCC will receive, and when they’ll initiate an investigation?

Story here.

NFL Bone-Cracking, Head-Bashing, High-Kicking No Longer Fun for the Family

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 01/20/2005 @ 2:24 pm

According to the Alexandria, LA, Town Talk, the NFL has a recommendation: “If a slut shows up to tempt you during work hours, forget your responsibilities to your employer and your fellow employees, and have at it. Go for personal fulfillment.”

The NFL ain’t just clean family fun anymore, now that they’ve gone and added all that nasty sexual innuendo to the family-safe violence.

And don’t even think about accusing concerned parents of hypocrisy (because, you know, those cheerleaders have been around for a while and they’re pretty sexy…).

“Trying this line of attack,” says Brent Bozell, founder of the Parents Television Council, “is a little like yelling at Weight Watchers to lay off their lose-weight message because their clients are already fat.”


Op-Ed here.

Why We Have Remotes

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 01/20/2005 @ 2:12 pm

In addition to their FCC campaign, the PTC is dog-piling a Missouri CBS affiliate for airing the Without a Trace “orgy.”

Says the CBS rep:

“If you’re upset about that, that’s why we have remotes.”

Read about it.

By the way, if you missed the orgy, the PTC has graciously provided a clip on its website.

Inaugural Bash F-Bomb

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 01/20/2005 @ 2:07 pm

Fuel Singer Excitedly Swears At Bush Twins’ Inaugural Bash

Breaking News: Progressives Biggest Opponents to Free Speech

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 01/20/2005 @ 2:04 pm

“For years now there have been things that one simply cannot say in the presence of progressives. The possibility that men and women have different aptitudes is one of those things….

That progressives rarely hear ideas displeasing to them I think explains their present dazed condition regarding the drift of American society. It also explains their anger. What is to be their fate? Allow me a suggestion, unwelcome though it may be. They are going to go to their graves dazed and angry and thinking they are right. They are going to cause a great deal of unpleasantness, but they are going to disappear. The First Amendment will outlast them all. They have seen their last ascendancy.”

Via the always-informative TownHall.com.

SpongeBob HotPants

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 01/20/2005 @ 1:59 pm

UPDATE: More here.

Focus on the Family thinks SpongeBob is a big ol’ gay-lover.

FF honcho James Dobson is protesting Bob’s participation a “pro-homosexual video,” co-starring Barney and Jimmy Neutron.

The video is accompanied by a “tolerance pledge” that includes sexual identity.

And tolerance is baaaaaaaaad.

UPDATE: Here’s the video.

See Seattle Post-Intelligencer (via NYT).

To send a letter to the editor:
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
New York Times

Puritanical censorship becoming a way of life

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 01/20/2005 @ 1:44 pm

“The way the ‘moral leaders’ of the country talk, you’d thing a single offensive image would be enough to lead our youth into a life of hard crime or and sexual deviancy…. This is the kind oppression that has been protested throughout the course of our history, but for some reason I see few standing up to protest now. “

Read it in the OSU college pub.

we’re doing something about it.

PBS: Fear of FCC Fines Leads to Self-Censorship

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 01/20/2005 @ 1:08 pm

The LA Times has published a wire story about PBS’s decision to cut a Silkwoodesque decontamination scene from HBO’s Dirty Bomb.

PBS exec Jacoba Atlas sums it up thusly: “You want to pick your battles.”

Read about it in the Chicago Tribune.

Then, send a letter to PBS telling them that this is a battle worth fighting.

The Wonderful World of Michael Powell

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 01/20/2005 @ 12:23 pm

“Even as he attacks indecency over the public airwaves, Mr Powell is the first to admit that his policies lack coherence.”

Read @ Economist.com

PTC Says Fox Is a Kidder

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 01/20/2005 @ 10:59 am

The folks at the Parents Television Council are crying foul at Fox’s decision to “pixelate animated butt.” Fox entertainment president Gail Berman announced that infant Stewie’s bottom would be blurred during a four-year-old rerun of The Family Guy. “FCC guidelines are not clear,” Berman said. “We are now second- and third-guessing ourselves.”

But the PTC believes that the move “was orchestrated by Fox to make FCC regulation look inane. Our Fox Media Analyst discovered content that was much worse than a naked behind that they could have edited out if they were truly interested in avoiding FCC fines.”

The PTC then proceeds to post snippets of dialogue in which Family Guy characters discuss cartoon genitalia.

In other news, the PTC is considering a new slogan: “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Basically, you’re damned and we’re not.”

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