|Here's a little bit on the hearings. Not quite done yet but it'll give you an idea of where I'm going with it. - Anthony |
I watched the entire Broadcast Decency Enforcement hearing the other day on CSPAN. It went on for about 8 hours and by the time it was over I had to fight the urge to run head first into my television set.
The Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet listened to testimony from witnesses including NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Viacom COO Mel Karmazin and the 5 FCC commissioners headed by Chairman Michael Powell. You may ask “what was the noble mission of these proceedings?” To protect the American people…from Janet Jackson’s right breast. It doesn’t stop there though. Apparently we need protection from just about everything that airs on TV and radio.
I’ve never had a reason to sit through 8 hours of a congressional hearing before, but I figured if I’m going to be part of their conversation, I should pony up and take the pain. The committee members started out by taking turns asking Tagliabue and Karmazin if anyone from Viacom or The NFL, had any prior knowledge that Janet Jackson was going to expose a breast during the Super bowl halftime show. Tagliabue and Karmazin did their best Sgt. Shultz impressions ”I know nothing…NOTHING!” Karmazin, like a lieutenant after a mission’s gone bad, did accept responsibility due to the fact that it happened on his watch. Wait a minute. We are talking about a ¾ second long clip of a partially covered breast here, right? Ok. Sorry, with a congressional hearing and denials of prior knowledge and claims of responsibility I was getting this confused with Watergate or the Pentagon Papers or the Challenger explosion or 9/11 or ANYTHING besides a ¾ of a second clip of a partially covered breast on TV.
I believe Tagliabue and Karmazin when they said no one from the NFL or Viacom knew Janet was going to let one pop out. This is one of those situations that Opie and I have been in many times. It’s called “It seemed like a good idea at the time”. If you’re in the entertainment business it’s all about getting and keeping your name out there. Don’t blame the entertainers for this one folks. The entertainment industry becomes more and more competitive every year. If you don’t get the press and stay in the public eye you’re done. This is just the nature of the beast. If you want to work for any length of time you better make your wheels squeak. When an opportunity comes around to have your name and face splashed across the media you go for it. This tactic is even used by the press itself. Look at how many times the news ran the Janet clip. Most of the time these “stunts” result in the publicity push you were going for. Sometimes, well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. This incident was Janet Jackson deciding to take the leap. Maybe at the advice of one of her people or on her own but there is no way that the NFL or Viacom would have green lighted what she did.
Just when the monotony of the questions was making me want to stick a pair of scissors in my ear the microphone was given to committee member Heather Wilson the Republican representative from New Mexico. As Bugs Bunny once told Daffy after he blew himself up on stage, ”What a performance Doc! What a performance!” Ms. Wilson told the room how her family “is real restrictive about television watching” and how her 4th grade son had to ask for “special permission” to watch the Superbowl. Special permission? Gee, thanks mom! With utter disgust on her face and in her voice she told everyone how even before halftime she had to hear about “The farting horses” making reference to one of the commercials that aired. This was a great opportunity for her to take a well-rehearsed jab at how Madison Ave. aims its humor towards 4th graders. Wow, farting horses. Get to your fallout shelters people! What the hell is this country coming to?
She continues with a story of a phone conversation with her 4th grader the day after the Super bowl. Rep. Wilson was now speaking directly to Mel Karmazin as she went on about how her young son had asked her, “without any prompting”, if she saw the halftime show. Yeah, right. Give me a break. Her whole story was playing out like one of those Goddamn Lifetime movies. Ms. Wilson told her son that she had seen the halftime show and asked him what he thought about it. The boy answered, “I thought it was nasty”. This is where her voice starts to crack a bit. By the way, any 4th grader asked by his mom what he thought about seeing a boobie is going to say something like “it was nasty”. It’s embarrassing.
My favorite part of Ms Wilson’s act was when she said, in an emotional cracking voice, how her son and the other 4th graders knew this was somehow wrong. She looked right at Mel and asked, “If 4th grade children at a public school in Albuquerque New Mexico know right from wrong where did you corporate CEOs lose your way!” Right then and there Mel should have pulled out Bill Paxton’s line from ‘Aliens’: “So why don’t you put her in charge!”
Listening to this bull**** story was making me sick. It’s a story. She made this crap up. I was a 4th grade boy once. I know how 4th grade boys react to these things. They laugh. That’s all. They talk about it with their friends and laugh their asses off. No need to phone the shrink. No need to dump Prozac down his throat. No embarrassing talks needed. You know what the worse thing you can do to a 4th grader in this situation is? Have his mommy go on TV and start crying and yelling at some man about how damaging this is to your family. The 4th grader won’t understand what the big deal is because, remember, it’s funny to him (ha, ha boobies!) and he’ll think something must be wrong because mommy is acting like a lunatic who’s having a nervous breakdown crying on national television.
The fact of the matter is things like the Janet Jackson breast shot doesn’t offend children it offends some of the parents. For years, people who said they were offended by radio or TV shows were told to turn the dial and shut up. Those people smartened up. Now they complain in the name of America’s children so you can’t argue the point or you’re some kind of kid destroying child-hating monster.
You know the other type of person who loves using the children as an excuse? The failed parent. The entertainment industry is the best scapegoat there is for failed parents. “If it wasn’t for all the sex on TV my daughter wouldn’t be a sleeze”. “My son does drugs because they show people doing drugs on TV”. “MTV Jackass killed my kid!” It’s perfect. You don’t even need any facts to back it up. “TV wrecked my family”. Oh, ok.
When the committee finally realized they could only get so much mileage out of a ¾ of a second clip of a partially exposed breast on TV, they moved on to the other horrible things out there on the airwaves. Talk radio. I got a hell of a kick out of the committee discussing The Opie and Anthony Show. Not for the reasons you might think. I was enjoying the disgust with which they would bring up the St. Pats incident and tell the room how they “were going to read the transcript but it’s just to crude and disgusting and…blah, blah, blah.”
It reminded me of the student probation-hearing scene in Animal House when Douglas Neidermeyer says of the Delta house toga party, “We have received 2 dozen reports of individual acts of perversion so profound and disgusting that decorum prohibits listing them here.”
They very well could have read the Sex for Sam transcripts. We were within the FCC guidelines during that broadcast. For those who don’t know by now there was no “steamy sex” broadcast from St. Pats as some of you might have read. There was no “pew rocking sex” broadcast live by Opie and Anthony as was reported in the press. There was no “blow by blow description of sex broadcast from St. Pats” as was also reported. What was broadcast from St. Pats? Hold on to your hat’s here it is: “We’re in St. Pats and he’s doing the balloon knot.”
This is what was broadcast from St. Pats. That’s it. No really, that’s it. The press ran with the story that we had broadcast some kind of graphic sexually explicit description of a couple having sex at St. Pats. That is a flat out lie. “We’re in St. Pats and he’s doing the balloon knot” doesn’t make for a hot news story. It’s not steamy or pew rocking so they just printed what they thought would sound better. “Steamy sex broadcast live from St Pats.” and similar headlines.
Within days Michael Powell and the FCC was all over this. Powell was crafting an FCC response based on nothing more then inaccurate news accounts of the broadcast. He hadn’t even heard the show yet! The complaints the FCC was getting were not from people who heard the show but from people who heard the news reports of the show. Michael Powell was threatening Infinity Broadcasting with fines and revocation of a broadcast license based on nothing more then second hand news accounts.
By the time the FCC received the recordings and transcripts of the show they had painted themselves into a corner. Now they had to react big because they had already said they would. They couldn’t tell the people who, to this day, think we broadcast a live sex act from St. Pats that the show actually fell within FCC guidelines. This is why, as Mel Karmazin said during the hearing, Infinity has not paid the St. Pats broadcast fine and will continue fighting it. It was not indecent as it was broadcast. The idea behind that show was tasteless and awful and offended people’s faith and morality but the broadcast itself was not indecent and that’s what the FCC is supposed to be looking at.
So go ahead and read those transcripts committee members. You’ll have a bunch of people scratching their heads going huh? What? Fans of The Opie and Anthony Show understood what we were saying but anyone else would have needed the enigma decoder to figure it out. We knew the situation we were in being a controversial radio show. We had to toe a tighter line then the other shows that weren’t getting the ratings and attention we were getting. And we did. We took great care to speak in a certain way that fell well within FCC guidelines. It seems now that isn’t good enough. If, during an investigation, the FCC is told that “balloon knot” means something they consider offensive they will treat it as if it was the offensive word. Who the hell is that protecting? This is a perfect example of how members of the FCC are now making decisions based on their own morality and standards and not the laws. Dangerous stuff.
Are you thinking “Well, at least we have cable TV and satellite radio.” :BZZZzzz: Wrong! After building up a little head of steam and feeling good about this entertainment bash fest the committee starts asking the FCC commissioners if they would like to be given the ability to regulate cable television and satellite radio to which the commissioners said sure, bring it on. Excuse me? Pay services regulated by the FCC. Here’s some thing I assumed every idiot could do. Lock out channels with your remote. I assumed wrong. If these morons, who are screaming to have anything even remotely adult oriented removed from television, would take a few minutes to learn how to work more than just the channels and volume on the remote, they would see you can lock out any channel you want to. Your kid needs a code to unlock it. He’ll sooner find your dirty magazines in your bedroom you friggin’ perverts. But people are stupid. Learn something and remove the programs from your own house and don’t worry about what’s coming into mine.
This is far from a protection issue. This is a morality issue. A few people want to push their idea of what is good and right on everyone else. Unfortunately the majority of the people are also the quietest. No one ever writes letters or makes phone calls to tell a company or the government they don’t feel one way or another about something and few people write or call to say they are fine or pleased with something that happened. This is the vast majority of the population.
89 million people watched the Super bowl. The FCC received about 200,000 complaints against the halftime show. That amounts to .2 percent. Yes, that is point two percent. Since when does a .2 percent disapproval of something hold any weight? Could you imagine going to a show with 500 people and having one person at this show tell the manager that he was offended and doesn’t think it’s good for the other 499 people to see the show? Anyone in his right mind would tell the guy to get lost. He’s .2 percent of the audience. You wouldn’t consider shutting down based on that one complaint. But that’s what’s happening because the rest of us don’t make a peep
...TO BE CONTINUED?