Media Relations: media commentary and criticism

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

audiovox

-- audiovox -- radio ga-ga

Well, hell.

Entertainment L.A. Performer Thrown Off the Air Over Obscenity | Reuters.com (Thursday, March 4, 2004)

A popular Asian-American radio commentator has been thrown off a Los Angeles public radio station for using a four-letter word, becoming the latest casualty in the cultural war over obscenity on the airwaves. Commentator Sandra Tsing Loh said her use of the f-word in a prerecorded segment was an editing error but what KCRW-FM's general manager Ruth Seymour said on Thursday was that Loh made calculated use of obscenity in a politically charged time. [...]

Loh, 42, learned on Monday from Seymour that her six-year run on KCRW-FM had abruptly ended a day after the station aired her three-minute riff on a Bette Midler concert she attended and in which her musician husband played. "My husband, my soul mate, my ROOMMATE of 15 years -- he sleeps LATE, doesn't LISTEN, moves my STUFF around. But he DOES play guitar for Bette Midler on her MASSIVE new STAGE show. There are times he STANDS within five FEET of her!," the script read. "So I guess I have to fuck him." Although the quirky, uneven cadence of Loh's delivery makes it appear that the segments materialize in her mind as she walks into the recording studio, they are carefully scripted, she told Reuters. "We discussed it and (the engineer) said, 'Say it and I'll bleep it out," Loh said.

The irony of the incident is that she feared Midler would be angry about her commentary and fire her husband.

This is truly absurd. You would think that public radio would be willing to just shrug and let it go, especially since it was one word, and because this simply isn't something she did regularly. At worst, why on earth wouldn't they simply suspend her show for a week or two? It's one fucking word in all the years she did this show, broadcast to what is, if KCRW were being remotely honest, a terribly small audience. Granted, an audience with some money, but in general, an audience not terribly likely to go into hysterics over one occurrence of one word.

That said, the engineer involved fell down on the job in two different ways. First, as mentioned, the word should have been bleeped out as promised. Second ... he could have told her not to say it. Not for reasons of censorship, projected or actual, but because it simply wasn't necessary. She could have said, "...so I guess I'll have to have sex with him," and the piece really wouldn't have lost much of its impact. There just wasn't any reason to include the F-Word as such.

KCRW has already very thoughtfully removed all evidence that the Loh Life ever existed from their website, the web page, the audio files, everything except one lone entry from a show called "The Treatment" from 2001.

There are still her reviews at The Atlantic, of course, but it's not remotely the same as hearing her rant about the topic du jour.

Maybe she can join up with Howard Stern on some satellite radio commentary station. He seems to think that the FCC and Infinity (his syndicator) are about to sacrifice him on the altar of Our Glorious Shrub's presidency.

Howard Stern urges vote against Bush by Peter Goodman
Newsday (via AZCentral) Mar. 5, 2004 05:19 PM

Howard Stern, sounding grim and depressed, said Friday on his top-rated morning show that he expected to be forced off the radio within three months, the victim of a political and financial campaign driven by right-wing religious conservatives. He urged listeners to vote against President Bush in revenge. "The plug is about to be pulled on me," he told his audience, which he estimated at about 16 million listeners nationwide. "I'm saying my goodbyes now. There's nothing you can do about it . . . Vote George Bush out of office. That's all I ask. Remember me when you go to the voting booth." [...] "Clear Channel set me up," Stern said. "They used me. They threw me to the wolves." He said he expected Infinity to be forced to drop him by the threat of huge fines (Congress is considering raising fines for broadcast indecency to $500,000, up from the current maximum of $27,500) and possible loss of broadcast licenses. "Mel will not be able to do business . . . The company will try to fight back, but it won't be able to. I'm heartbroken about this."

A Stern campaign against Bush is no idle threat, in the opinion of one industry expert. "George W. Bush should lie awake at night having lost Howard Stern's support and having Stern as a political enemy," said Michael Harrison, founder and editor of the industry journal Talkers magazine. Although it is independent, Talkers has links to the conservative Heritage Foundation, which sponsors its twice-yearly talk-radio seminars. "Stern's clout, his influence over adults who vote, professionals, 30-something and 40-something professionals, is enormous," Harrison said.

On the one hand, it's difficult to feel at all sorry for Stern. He's parlayed being obnoxious and disliked into a huge audience and quite a bit of wealth. And, to be sure, for all that his sources have told him that Michael Powell is gunning for him, nothing has actually happened yet. His advertisers are standing by him, and as more than a few of them are likely heavy hitters and contributors to Our Glorious Shrub's campaign coffers (the media business is big business, after all, and this is the most unbalanced pro-business administration in a generation), they may well be able to convince the administration to back off and soften its rhetoric somewhat. Depending on how many representatives' and Senators' purse strings they have a hold on, they may even be able to convince Congress to let the issue fade somewhat. (Yes, one has an almost entirely cynical view of politics. And? Does this surprise? But I digress.)

On the other ... it's hard not to view the FCC and Congress' knee jerk reaction in massively raising fines as gross overreactions -- but then, that's what reactionaries do, isn't it? Between KCRW/Sandra Tsing Loh and Clear Channel/Infinity/Stern, it's hard to figure out which is more bothersome. That if Congress wasn't in its present "let's go after all improprieties because it's an election year and that's an easy issue" mood, likely nothing would have happened to Loh once the station determined that it really was both planned and an engineer error? That Stern, however obnoxious he may be, is being directly targeted for political speech? Or that the administration and social conservatives seem to have declared open season on the media because, again, it's an easy target?

Posted by iain at 01:28 PM in category audiovox