SpeakSpeak News

5/17/2005

Stevens on Cable Regs: Eh, Not So Much

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/17/2005 @ 1:15 pm

Senator Ted Stevens, the first (but not the last) to propose indecency regulation for cable and satellite broadcasters, says now that maybe the whole thing isn’t necessary after all.

From a B&C report:

Stevens has suggested applying broadcast indecency rules to cable, then promoted mandating a family tier as another way to go. Monday he said he is now learning that even that may not be economically possible, but “we ought to come as close to it as we can.”

Asked for clarification by reporters later, Stevens said there may not be a need for rules at all and that he would press the industry to come up with a voluntary tiering approach on its own.

Via CCVM.

Salon on PBS

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/17/2005 @ 12:46 pm

Salon’s Eric Boehlert examines PBS, Ken Tomlinson, and the idea of fairness and balance in Making PBS as “fair and balanced” as Fox. (Must watch ad to be granted free day pass.)

US House Jumps on Gay Book Ban-Wagon

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/17/2005 @ 12:40 pm

Yet another Southern legislator has proposed to protect kids from kids’ books.

US Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) has introduced a bill (HR 2295) that would require state educational agencies to implement a parental review board to decide which books are suitable for public libraries. States that refused to implement such review boards would lose federal education funding.

Jones heard the call after reading a newspaper story about a 7-year-old girl who checked out “King and King” from her local library. The girl’s parents were appalled and apparently believe she’s been scarred for life. ("King and King” is the current anti-gay cause célèbre, and was also the impetus for Oklahoma’s recent gay book kerfluffle.)

According to The Hill, Jones said he hopes that his bill will “help parents take back their right to regulate the appropriateness of the content their children are exposed to.”

Okay, so how does this work? The state’s education agency — whose commissioners are political appointees in most (all?) states — picks a handful of parents to make decisions for all parents in each district? Can anyone claim with a straight that these “review boards” won’t turn into political posts?

Wouldn’t it just be easier for parents to accompany their 7-year-olds to the library, and make decisions about which books are appropriate for which child?

The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. The committee’s chairman, John Boehner of Ohio, is reportedly in favor of its passage.

Story in The Hill.

Abominable Snow Phallus Off the Hook

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/17/2005 @ 12:13 pm

Obscenity charges have been dropped against two Wyoming men who forsook the traditional snowman or snow angel approach in favor of building a ’snow phallus.’ The men were arrested and charged with violating local obscenity ordinances after a complaint from a phallophobic neighbor.

The pair’s lawyer successfully argued that an anonymous complaint from a single neighbor did not sufficiently represent a violation of ‘community standards,’ and therefore would not pass First Amendment tests. (Note to PTC….)

The prosecutor subsequently dropped the charges.

From the Casper Star Tribune.

Saudi Men Sentenced to Prison for Circulating Petition

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/17/2005 @ 11:57 am

Three Saudi Arabian men have been sentenced to up 9 years in prison for circulating a petition that called for an end to the Saudi Arabian monarchy. The men were offered a chance to avoid prison by signing a pledge to refrain from criticizing the government. They declined, and were incarcerated.

Says Human Rights Watch, “Reforms like limited elections will ring hollow unless Saudi citizens can freely express their political views. The Saudi government urgently needs to undertake reforms that fully protect the civil and political rights of all its citizens.”

From ArabicNews.com.

In Defense of a Liberal Bias

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/17/2005 @ 11:48 am

Buzzflash reader John Hazell has published an open letter to Ken Tomlinson, he in the middle of the CPB/PBS maelstrom, asking the question many “liberals” must be mulling: Why is a so-called liberal bias a bad thing?

To understand why a liberal media is a good thing, one has to understand the motivations of liberals and the motivations of conservatives. Truth is a liberal value. Liberals believe in fairly presenting all sides of a story, because honesty and truth are core values for them. They are even willing to criticize their own leaders if the leaders deserve it. Liberals believe in speaking truth to power. They will not let those in power get away with devious or dishonest behavior. The reason so many journalists poll as liberals is that they are so committed to truth that they are willing to sacrifice in a hard, poorly paid occupation to pursue their ideals rather than choosing a career in another field that would be far more lucrative.

Conservatives on the other hand, value winning. They do not mind being deceitful if it helps them achieve a goal. The current administration is a perfect example. They gave twenty-four different reasons to the American people for why we invaded Iraq, while never mentioning the real reasons, which actually had to do with installing a permanent military presence in the Middle East to enforce American policy. See “The National Security Strategy of the United States of America” and the “Project for the New American Century.”

More at Buzzflash.

Sex-Ed Ed

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/17/2005 @ 11:40 am

TownHall columnist John Leo criticizes the critics of the critics of the Montgomery County, MD, sex ed curriculum that recently made a stink.

Recap: Schools in Montgomery County were set to introduce a health ed curriculum that, among other things, addressed homosexuality and gender identity. The Liberty Counsel, representing Parents and Friends of ex-Gays (PFOX) and Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, sued. Among their complaints, material in the teachers’ guides of the curriculum, including:

– “Fact: Most experts in the field have concluded that sexual orientation is not a choice;”

– “Fact: Sex play with friends of the same gender is not uncommon during early adolescence and does not prove long-term sexual orientation;”

– “It is no more abnormal or sick to be homosexual than to be left-handed;”

– “Heterosexual parents are consistently not found to be more loving or caring than gay parents;”

– “Religion has often been misused to justify hatred and oppression;”

– “Human sexuality is a continuum;”

The superintendent of schools pulled the curriculum because of the controversy. The Liberty Counsel pressed on, and a federal judge issued an injunction against package, stating that it presented a one-sided view of homosexuality and was biased against certain religious beliefs.

Back to John Leo.

Leo takes the curriculum’s advocates to task for — well, for just about everything.

Even apart from church-state entanglement, the Montgomery curriculum is out of line in dismissing moral claims as myths. On what basis can a state institution tell parents and children that their morality is faulty? In dealing with homosexuality, the job of the school is to teach tolerance, not to disparage traditional views. Gays are our neighbors and should be treated with respect. Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, one of two local groups opposing the curriculum, makes this point clearly. “Teaching respect for persons with same-sex attraction is appropriate and right,” the group says.

“But demanding affirmation of a homosexual orientation and behavior goes beyond the ethic of tolerance.” The curriculum does in fact teach approval of homosexuality. Understandably, gays want that approval, but it can’t be imposed by state schools.

Read Leo’s widely syndicated column in its entirety at TownHall.com.

And in other news, activists in Fairfax County, VA, are using the Montgomery County case as a model to challenge their schools’ sex ed curriculum.

At issue there are pamphlets that address emergency contraception and that “belittle” abstinence. This from the Washington Times.

Cable/Satellite Corps: Forget the Frying Pan, Worry about the Fire

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/17/2005 @ 11:17 am

A University of Michigan study has found that cable and satellite companies have the worst customer satisfaction ratings of all service industries. From the Philly Inquirer:

The American Consumer Satisfaction Index asked a nationwide sampling of consumers three generic questions relating to their level of satisfaction with products and services they purchase. The same three questions were used for 15 industries and more than 77 individual companies studied, according to David VanAmburg, managing director of the index, which is a product of the National Quality Research Center at the University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business. A 250-person sample was used for individual businesses; 500-person samples were used to measure satisfaction across industries, VanAmburg said.

As a group, the cable and satellite firms did worse than airlines, which tallied 66 points, and the U.S. Postal Service, which actually did not do so bad, scoring 73. Just behind the cable and satellite firms, tied with wireless phone service companies at 63, were (yikes!) newspapers.

This DishNetwork subscriber says “no surprise here.” (That’s right, called you out by name for all the time I spent on the phone with you this weekend. Ha.)

Via IWantMedia.

This just in:

The Consumers Union has launched a forum for disgruntled — and gruntled — wireless and cable consumers to voice their gripes and sucesses:

In an effort to arm consumers with the best possible information in their battles with telecommunication companies, Consumers Union today launched a new Web feature that allows consumers to share common complaints about their cable, phone and Internet providers, and learn from each others’ successes.

The Share Your Stories feature, located at www.hearusnow.org/share, allows consumers to search a database of stories to find one that most closely matches their situation. The stories range from “successes,” in which an effective solution was found, to “buyer beware” tales of products and services to avoid.

FCC Boys Stand Up for Something

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/17/2005 @ 11:04 am

At the media reform conference held in St. Louis last week, FCC Dems Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps came out swinging.

According to Broadcasting & Cable, Copps “let loose with a ‘call to action’ before artists, activists, and journalists,” asking them to help “in this all-American crusade to reclaim the people’s media for the people.”

“Don’t listen to those who counsel that now is not the time to fight. Don’t let the usual suspects inside the Beltway write the rules. Jump in with both feet. Involve your friends, your neighbors, anyone you can. Convene meetings. Write letters and articles. Take to the Internet. Use every source you can access. Do everything you can—and then do a little bit more!

The normally understated Copps wasn’t done with the polemics: “A lot of work to do? Sure. Powerful interests on the other side? You bet. A steep climb? Absolutely. Winnable? I have a two-word answer for that one: Damned right!”

Wow.

Adelstein, for his part, denounced commercialism as a “pernicious symptom of consolidation” and called on his own employer to ban interactive advertising to children.

Again in B&C, Adelstein

[T]ook aim at the 30-second, and 15-second men and women of the advertising community, decrying the “rapacious advertising preying on the unsuspecting minds of our children.”

He also took aim at product placement that “turns news and entertainment shows alike into undisclosed commercials,” and information placement in the form of “Video news releases masquerading as news,” with “PR agents pushing political and commercial agendas, squeezing out real news coverage.”

He then asked activists — asked activists — to begin recording examples of VNRs, product placements, or other ads without an accompanying disclosure. And then? File a complaint with the FCC.

He conceded, “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.”

Another wow.

Bozell News Service Whines about ‘Conservative’ Label

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/17/2005 @ 10:48 am

The “Times Watch Tracker,” an offshoot of Brent Bozell’s Media Research Center, is “dedicated to documenting and exposing the liberal political agenda of the New York Times.”

Here’s the best they could come up with.

An “analysis” of a Stephen Labaton article about the conflict between NPR and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting cites this foul:

Labaton writes for Monday: “[CPB chairman Kenneth] Tomlinson has been waging a campaign to correct what he and other conservatives see as a liberal bias in public television programming. That effort has been criticized by leaders of public television who say it poses a threat to their editorial independence. At the request of two senior Democratic members of Congress, the inspector general at the corporation is examining whether Mr. Tomlinson’s decision to monitor only one television program, ‘Now,’ with Bill Moyers, and his decision to retain a White House official who helped create guidelines for the two ombudsmen may have violated a law that is supposed to insulate public broadcasting from politics.”

Notice how Tomlinson is labeled a conservative, but Bill Moyers is not a liberal.

Boo hoo?

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