Is that enough? asks Tom Biro:
Sometimes I'm amazed (should I say frightened?) that incidents like this one continue to happen. This isn't about "pushing the envelope," which I'm pretty much all for. I'm a card-carrying member of the Jeff Jarvis "change the channel" club, and don't want any further restrictions and regulations put on various media outlets. At the same time, I think they have to think before they do something.WQHT's apology was late in coming and occurred only after angered listeners responded to a segment of the offending broadcast featured on its website.
A similar case occurred in Philadelphia, after Clear Channel-owned WUSL broadcast a "prank call" during which a DJ called an Indian customer service representative "a filthy rat eater." This clip aired without incident on December 15. It was only after an employee posted it on the station’s Web site that a public backlash began. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the station pulled the clip from its website after receiving over 130 email and phone complaints -- reportedly the most complaints the station had ever received in response to a single incident.
The offending Philadelphia DJ's -- Star and Buc Wild -- received a one-day suspension. Though, Later the same week, they announced that they had finalized a deal to air their daily show in the lucrative New York market -- at Hot 97's rival hip-hop station Power 105. The incident registered hardly a misstep on their path to reach even more listeners.
Biro has faith in this newly energized public’s ability to use tools, such as weblogs, streaming audio and forums, to curtail such media infractions. To which I ask Biro: Is that enough?
I subscribe to the “change the channel” school as well. . . with one catch: When it comes time for these stations to renew their broadcast licenses with the Federal Communications Commission -- which grants them free access to our publicly owned airwaves -- they must demonstrate that in exchange for our spectrum they provide programming that serves the “public interest.” This interest is vaguely defined as yet, I know, but it’s fair to say that the above content does not qualify -- and a repeated pattern of such abuse should form reasonable grounds for yanking a station's over-the-air privileges. I'll have to check on this with our coalition partners over at communications law firm Media Access Project.
Of late, an industry-friendly FCC has churned out license renewals with little regard for grantees' past performances. Beyond complaining via emails to the station, listeners can become more involved in the license renewal process -- by filing “petitions to deny” -- and forcing stations to prove their mettle as worthy stewards of our airwaves. If a station proves such outrageous disregard for its viewers, then their slice of the spectrum can be turned over to another broadcaster who holds us all in higher regard.
Is that enough?
SIDEBAR: Racist-cum-media pundit takes to the air in Pittsburgh.