Trade Publications or Puppets?

In this calm, so far mild Washington winter, in the doldrums between the voting out and the swearing in, it’s not exactly the season for table-pounding editorials about government officials who need to resign. Don’t tell that to Advertising Age magazine, which has just published a tantrum in black and white by a man named Simon Dumenco demanding the resignation of Kevin Martin, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

The rationale for Martin’s resignation? He had the audacity to enforce the indecency provisions of the communications act that created his agency.

If Dumenco wants to play Donald Trump and fire assorted government officials that bring him displeasure, perhaps he shouldn’t start with Martin, who is merely enforcing the law as it stands. Memo to Mr. Dumenco: If Martin refused to enforce decency provisions, then he would be in violation of the law.

When it comes to the newly enhanced fines that Hollywood hates, perhaps Dumenco should first call for the resignation of the almost 400 House members and the 99 or so senators who voted for them. Then he should call for the resignation of President Bush, who took the legislation approved by virtually everyone in Congress (and when was the last time that happened?) and signed it into law.

 There’s more Dumenco could do, if properly motivated. He could call for the resignation of the Supreme Court of 1978, which upheld the FCC’s duty to enforce indecency provisions for broadcasters. Liberal lion John Paul Stevens wrote for the Court majority that children are “uniquely accessible” to broadcasters and that curse words were out on the distasteful periphery of First Amendment concerns. Maybe he should step down.

So what in the world is Dumenco’s beef with the head of the FCC? “Kevin Martin has proved time and time again that he’s all about serving his special interests, not the interests of the creative community — and certainly not those of the average American consumer. Which is why he’s gotta go.”

To which one responds that Dumenco has a funny sense of where the majority lies and who are the special interests — and that’s the problem. In fact, it goes beyond Dumenco and Advertising Age, and on to other trade publications, from Broadcasting & Cable, to the Hollywood Reporter, to MediaWeek, to Multichannel News and so on. These publications have no interest in serving the public. They are pandering to their subscribers in the “creative community.” They are so beholden to the entertainment media that they’ve become glossy press release services for Hollywood.

 Multichannel News recently ran an editorial by author Frederick Lane declaring, “The time has come to strip the Federal Communications Commission of its jurisdiction over broadcast indecency.” He said the FCC should butt out since it’s been outdated by technology. Restrictions on broadcasters, he says, aren’t consistent with “vibrant democracy,” in which parents who don’t like the state of broadcast TV should just buy DVDs for their children and shut up.

Lane was also interviewed at length in Broadcasting & Cable magazine with softball questions, such as, “Is it dangerous for the government to try to regulate morality?” Lane spun imaginative visions of an ultra-powerful Brent Bozell (that’s me, folks) calling Karl Rove at the White House on matters at the FCC, ordering him around like he was a stable boy. That cozy interview was conducted by the magazine’s reporter John Eggerton, whose blog routinely channels a pro-porn, pro-cursing, pro-anything-goes viewpoint.

Eggerton recently offered his cheers for NBC’s “Studio 60” attacking the FCC in a preposterous plot about a crackdown on cursing that aired on the news in a war zone. “‘Studio 60’ is pretty darn preachy, which is no surprise for an Aaron Sorkin production, but fortunately for me it’s my favorite sermon.” He said he wanted Sorkin to write all his snappy comebacks at conservatives. But wasn’t the show a preposterous cartoon of the evil FCC vs. heroic broadcasters? Eggerton wrote Sorkin was putting on “a Christmas show, so he can be forgiven for a little Christmas dreaming.”

When these magazines write about indecency issues, the public should view these outlets skeptically, as pro-industry mouthpieces. Need we remind the titans of Tinseltown and their advertising and journalistic toadies in Manhattan and elsewhere that the airwaves belong to the people? They are not the sole province of champagne-sipping sybarites who have no greater cause in American life than the precious right to choke fat obscenities down the gaping mouths of grade-school children.


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