Sunday, January 23, 2005

The New Media Police: You and Me?

On-air personalities at a NY hip-hop radio show joined the ranks of other racist DJ’s when they aired a musical parody that mocked South Asian tsunami victims, using racial slurs "chink" and "Chinamen," and calling drowned victims "bitches." WQHT/Hot 97 broadcast the "Tsunami Song" during the "Miss Jones in the Morning" show. Station Manager John Dimick has since issued an apology saying that the show's seven-person staff “has agreed to contribute one-week's pay to the tsunami-relief efforts."

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.


Anonymous said...

Re Tepid 97 and its appalling attitude about the tsunami, sometimes it can be a very fine line between freedom of expresion and inciting hatred. I am all for freedom of expression, individually and via the airwaves but the station has pushed the fine line way too far. My father and I have contacted companies which advertise on the station about our concerns and would urge others to do likewise. Pasting an apology on a website too long after the event and throwing a few dollars around as some sort of feel-better compensation goes nowhere near far enough. Have any heads rolled at the station? How could anyone with even a pinch of humanity try to laugh off a tragedy which claimed many thousands of lives and has left so many people in despair? I have worked in the industry for many years and have NEVER been so pissed off. No, disgusted might be a better word. When is the station's licence up for renewal? Is anyone going to do something about this? If you are, and you need moral support, please contact me.

Ruthie Rader said...

You knew this would upset ME. And you're right.

I, too, would like those radio jerks at that station to "feel the love." [NOT!]

If you think I should send a letter or make a phone call, I will.

Always Remember And Never Forget:

Life has a way of even-ing up the score.

My most recent posts about a certain writer for the Associated Press proves that point very nicely.

It took several years but the opportunity finally presented itself and I made the most of it.

[And someday Google will realize the error of ITS ways.]

In the meantime, I will be happy to assist you in THIS endeavor. Thank you for bringing the radio rejects to my attention.