Networks finally understand the Constitution

Even though lawsuits like this shouldn’t be necessary, it’s about time the broadcast networks grew a set:

Four TV broadcast networks and their affiliates have filed court challenges to a March 15 Federal Communications Commission ruling that found several programs “indecent” because of language.

ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox, along with their network affiliate associations and the Hearst-Argyle Television group of stations, filed notices of appeal in various federal courts, including in Washington D.C. and New York. Some were filed late Thursday and the rest Friday morning.

The move represents a protest against the aggressive enforcement of federal indecency rules that broadcasters have complained are vague and inconsistently applied. Millions of dollars in fines have been levied based on those rules.

The networks need to fight the censorship coming from the FCC more often every time. That won’t happen, but this gives hope that maybe they’re growing a spine. It’s an infant spine, sure, but it’s a start.

Personally, I like this:

The networks and affiliate groups, representing more than 800 individual stations, issued a rare joint statement Friday calling the FCC ruling “unconstitutional and inconsistent with two decades of previous FCC decisions.

“In filing these court appeals we are seeking to overturn the FCC decisions that the broadcast of fleeting, isolated _ and in some cases unintentional _ words rendered these programs indecent.”

“Unconstitutional and inconsistent with two decades…” Blah, blah, blah. They should’ve just stopped with unconstitutional. Using the less severe, but equally offensive, censorship practiced by the FCC for the last two decades as a defense only invites the court to rely on tradition rather than the Constitution. Given how frequently that seems to be happening lately, I want the courts to use clearly absurd logic to insert tradition into “Congress shall make no law…” Instead, we’ll maybe get the status quo from last year. Big deal.

FCC spokeswoman Tamara Lipper said Friday that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled more than 20 years ago that comedian George Carlin’s monologue on the “7 dirty words you can’t say on television and radio” was indecent.

“Today, Disney, Fox and CBS challenged that precedent and argued that they should be able to air two of those same words,” Lipper said. “We are reviewing their filings.”

What’s to review? That ruling was wrong then, and it’s wrong now. The Constitution should still prevail over the scared, puritan hacks reading, “interpreting”, and “enforcing” it. At some point, the national mommies and daddies in the Federal government need to stop being nanny-statists.

Shoot the lumbering dinosaur

I’ve mentioned in the past that I listen to Howard Stern and that I was a Sirius subscriber and stockholder long before Mr. Stern announced that he’d signed with Sirius. In the entries I’ve written, I’ve mostly exhausted what I could say about CBS’s frivolous lawsuit against Mr. Stern. Here’s a snippet of what I wrote when Infinity (owned by CBS) suspended him in November:

Free commercials are wonderful, but that’s what makes this suspension laughable. He’s been ranting about this or that offense by the FCC and/or K-Rock since almost the moment Sirius announced his new deal. Why would Infinity wait until now to suspend him? If they didn’t like it, they should’ve stopped it immediately, whether through an order or suspension. Waiting until now, more than a year later, Infinity looks stupid.

With this new lawsuit, I can’t imagine the words I need to mock CBS sufficiently.

I’m corrupting my own mind

This isn’t shocking, but the FCC is back in the nanny business:

The Federal Communications Commission plans to levy fines against broadcasters or their affiliates for violating decency standards in about a half-dozen cases, people familiar with the matter said yesterday.

One incident involves Nicole Richie saying “shit” on Fox’s broadcast of the 2003 Billboard Music Awards. The first obvious response is to state that it was the Billboard Music Awards. Nobody was watching. For those few who were, I’m going to guess that they’ve heard the word “shit” before. They’ve probably even uttered it once or twice. Our society still exists. Somehow.

Another case involves the unsurprising conclusion that Janet Jackson’s not-really-revealed breast during the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show violated decency standards. I have nothing else to add about the specific incident beyond what I’ve already written. Instead, I’ll point out that human creativity provides me with uncensored radio, in spite of the decency cops at the FCC (and Congress). They may be violating one Amendment, but they haven’t figured out how to violate all of them. Yet.

Until then… Suckers.

Join the revolution, eh

I wrote a few weeks ago that Sirius would not carry Howard Stern on its Canadian service due to decency standards in Canada revolving around the country having no equivalent to our First Amendment. It’s embarrassing that a democracy in the 21st century has no guaranteed free speech, but at least it gives us some perspective on how much worse our situation could be. Unless our courts decide not to be activist or legislate from the bench and allow Congress to pass laws restricting pay content. But I digress. Yesterday, Sirius Canada announced that it would begin airing Howard Stern’s radio show beginning Monday.

“It’s no secret that Howard Stern’s programming is not consistent with the kind of programming you would find on CBC/Radio Canada’s airwaves, but this is a Sirius Canada decision,” said CBC spokesman Jason MacDonald.

The subscription-based network is 40 per cent owned by the CBC, 40 per cent by Standard Radio and 20 per cent by Sirius in the United States.

“Sirius Canada is a separate company,” noted MacDonald.

“Yes, we’re partners and Sirius Canada made the decision that was right for it based on what the market demands.”

This is obviously a triumph for free speech and free markets in Canada, but I don’t know how long it’ll last. Stern said as much yesterday. He was joking, but this makes me wonder:

[MacDonald] said new technology that allows Sirius Canada subscribers to block out Stern if they so choose was a significant factor in finalizing the deal.

Sirius Canada has said it does not expect Stern to run into censorship trouble this time because his satellite show is a pay service.

“It’s really up to the public to decide whether it wants to submit a complaint, regardless of the fact that it’s a service that is purchasable,” says CRTC spokeswoman Miriam Gennaro.

She couldn’t immediately say, however, whether different standards will apply to satellite radio.

I know Ted Stevens, Brent Bozell, and James Dobson would love to implement such a scheme in the United States, but I’m thankful the First Amendment says what it says. Now, if we just convince those non-“activist” judges to read it with the same deference to the text they would apply to any more favored portion of the Constitution. I know that’s crazy talk, but I can dream, right?

Facts matter. Providing them matters more.

I promise this will be the last sports-related post today, but I want to comment on this column by Michael Wilbon in today’s Washington Post. Mr. Wilbon is one of two sports columnists I look forward to reading when any significant topic (to me) occurs in the sports world. I can always count on Mr. Wilbon to offer an insightful, well-written editorial. Reading today’s column on Redskins safety Sean Taylor spitting in the face of Michael Pittman, I figured I’d get the same, since a $17,000 fine is ridiculously low. The column started out well, comparing Taylor’s fine with the $20,000 fine running back Clinton Portis received for wearing non-regulation socks. So far, so good. It’s when Mr. Wilbon got to the example of Marcus Vick as further proof. I agree that Vick is a useful comparison, but there are two serious issues I have with how far Mr. Wilbon takes the argument. Both exist in this paragraph. Consider:

So you’ll pardon me if I’m not going to give school and athletic department officials a standing ovation for throwing his butt out of school . . . eventually. He should have been thrown out months earlier. And university officials, if they have the guts, ought to be taking a serious look at the entire football program because there’s way too much trouble involving the football players on that campus.

As for Virginia Tech “throwing his butt out of school,” this is the second time Mr. Wilbon mentioned this. Unfortunately, it’s not true. Virginia Tech dismissed Marcus Vick from the football team, not from Virginia Tech. Vick did nothing to help himself in the last week, but there’s a difference. But that’s more a trivial complaint than anything.

More disturbing is the last part of that paragraph. With the phrase “way too much trouble involving the football players on that campus,” Mr. Wilbon presents the Virginia Tech football team as a troubled program, one that coddles thugs and criminals while putting only money as a priority. Maybe that’s true; I’ve heard such statements in abundance over the last week, so I’m not surprised. I expect proof with a statement like that, though. Simply stating something does not make it true.

Without facts, it diminishes our reputation with people who are paying only marginal attention to our program. It implies that we care only about athletics and victories, with academics of little consequence. If that’s true, Mr. Wilbon should provide support for statements like that. If it’s not, he should understand that making such throwaway lines for hyperbole hurts Virginia Tech unfairly with potential students, as well as athletic recruits, because his words have influence. Whichever impression the facts support, I can accept it. I can’t accept that Marcus Vick alone is an indictment of the entire program, not without more proof.

What’s next, “Washington football club”?

Reading The Washington Post today, I came across this article about the Seattle Times. Consider:

To avoid insulting native American heritage, the Seattle Times decided to limit severely the use of the term Redskins in the paper — even if a team with that name will dominate news coverage this week. The Times will not use the moniker in headlines or captions. Reporters can use it only once, as a first reference, in all stories. The Redskins will be referred to almost exclusively as Washington — which could get a little confusing for local readers who also live in that state.

It’s especially stupid when noting that linebacker Marcus Washington is the best Redskins defensive player. Rather than prattle on further, I think it’ll be interesting to point out how this supposed sensitivity reads as journalism. From this article, “Gibbs’ guys beat back Buccaneers”, the ridiculousness becomes clear.

“It’s been a tough fight these last six weeks,” said linebacker Marcus Washington, who recovered a fumble and had a fourth-quarter interception. “We ain’t ready to go home yet, so we’re going to keep sawing wood.”

The Bucs got one more chance, taking over at their 46 after a 14-yard punt with 1:05 to go. But Simms’ first-down pass was tipped at the line and intercepted by Washington, and Washington ran out the clock.

Washington stopped Carnell “Cadillac” Williams for a 1-yard gain, forcing a fumble that the linebacker recovered before scrambling to his feet and taking off with the ball.

Tampa Bay’s Dan Buenning punched the ball loose from Washington at the 41 before Taylor scooped it up at the 49 and raced to the end zone for a 14-0 lead. The Bucs challenged the TD, but the score was upheld by replay.

Why exactly is the name “Redskins” so bad? Is it better to potentially not insult a portion of readers, or to provide a persistent lack of clarity in that article? I’d go with the notion that the Seattle Times would better serve its readers with information than morality.

For more insight into the paper’s political correctness, enjoy this screenshot of the header for Saturday’s game.

Assaulting your own ears is a crime

I’ve written about the basic idea behind Sirius Canada refusing to broadcast Howard Stern because of Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission restrictions. It’s absurd, and a reminder that we’re still free, despite our FCC nonsense. With this decision to definitely exclude Stern’s broadcast from Sirius’s Canadian subscribers, I’d like to point out something I mentioned before. From the article:

Leaving Howard Stern off its 100-channel service will hamper Sirius Canada as it attempts to eliminate a growing grey market of Canadians that [sic] have chosen to purchase U.S. hardware and listen to U.S. satellite radio services.

Canadian law makes it illegal to subscribe to and receive unauthorized U.S. satellite radio signals. But policing satellite radio is far more difficult for Canadian authorities than U.S. satellite TV services that are illegally picked up via stationary dishes in about 600,000 Canadian homes.

I guess the Canadian government doesn’t understand care what Canadians want. Better to impose some notion of the common good than to hope they choose it as their private wish. And if government policy can harm Canadian retailers trying to sell Canadian receivers, I guess that earns bonus points, even though I thought capitalism was somewhat good in Canada. Throw in the tax revenues going to the United States government instead of the Canadian government because many Canadians are “illegally” procuring Sirius, and I can’t imagine how America doesn’t immediately adopt such a policy.

All snark aside, this is the nonsense we see when censors and content nannies try to circumvent the marketplace of ideas. I think Howard Stern is hilarious, and it’s a reason why I subscribe to Sirius. People who don’t think he’s funny don’t have to listen. That’s especially true now that it’s not free. Letting other citizens interfere with private transactions between two consenting individuals, whatever the technology used to conduct that transactions, is absurd. That’s not concern; it’s collectivism, with only a few decision-makers deciding what’s good. It may work in appearance, as Canada can claim with the superficial absence of Howard Stern from Canadian airwaves satellite beams. But those who want what’s denied will find it, becoming nominal criminals in the process. Sure, society is harmed by Stern in Canada this morning, but it’s not those listening who feel the pain.

Dreaming of a libertarian daily newspaper

Peggy Noonan has an Opinion Journal column today about near universal support for our troops, regardless of varying opinions on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That story is interesting, but I believe the angle she uses to approach her point is worth noting. Consider:

We all criticize the mainstream media, regularly and with reason. More and more and day by day the MSM is showing us that its response to the popularity of conservative media and the rise of alternative news sources is to become less carefully liberal. What in the past had to be hidden is now announced.

This is not necessarily bad: it makes things better by making them clearer. I didn’t enjoy their ideological smuggling. Now they’re more like free-market people: Here are my liberal wares, if you want to buy them buy them, if not the Fox News stall is down the street, buy their faulty product and curses on you!

Fine with me, except that as a consumer of news I think they’re making a mistake. In a time of endless opinion, fact is king. Fact is rarer, harder to come by, more valuable. If only the MSM understood what money and power there are to be had from being famously nonideological, from being a famously reliable pursuer and presenter of fact. Wouldn’t it be great if that were the next new thing?

I don’t often agree with her columns, but she gets it right on that point. As I’ve said many times before, the mainstream media is a marketplace. Rather than complaining about universal bias, which is a blunt tool at best, news customers should find a source that makes them happy. As I’ve said and as she states here, if The Washington Post is too liberal, read The Washington Times. The business side of it will work itself out, whether it’s through a shift in strategy by the publisher, bankruptcy, or sufficient population acceptance of the status quo. It’s just an extension of the marketplace of ideas, which keeps American political thought vibrant. And it works better than mere complaining.

All the news that’s fit to slant

Guess what? Media bias is real. Rather than excerpt any particular passage from the news release, I’ll sum it up with what I’ve said in the past: Duh. This is new information?

Give any thinking person access to media, whether newspapers, television, radio, or The Internets, and they’ll find something that could count as bias. It’s the reader’s job to read with a critical mind. Without that, the reader can be swayed “against his wishes,” which concerns me exactly zero percent. Buyer beware and all that. If a reader wants bias, he’ll seek it out. If he doesn’t, he’ll boycott news outlets that skew against his beliefs. If he’s too ignorant or lazy or whatever to participate in that exchange, I’m not going to feel sorry for him. The marketplace for ideas exists for a reason. Engage or shut up.

Read the summary of the study and make up your own mind; it’s a quick read. If nothing else, it’s an insight into the “Fun with Numbers” mentality of quantitatively comparing items that have no justifiable scientific link. That, tied together with methodology that appears to ignore context, will most certainly achieve the desired confirmation of the liberal media bias thesis. Big deal.

Behold the power of The Internets

Browsing through the Congressional votes database on the Washington Post’s site today, I discovered a unique and interesting way to review legislative votes. Sure, anyone could think that organizing by party and state. I might even come up with region. But gender? I wouldn’t have thought that overly useful. And baby-boomer status? I guess age could matter. I wouldn’t use that, though. But here’s the Holy Grail (data for vote 618, H.R. 4440):

Astrological sign
Not Voting

Someone please explain to me when that might ever be useful. Other than the bored hippie constituency, maybe, I don’t get it. Just because technology rocks doesn’t mean we should use it to use it.