Vox Populi: The O'Shaughnessy Files

By William O’Shaughnessy | Go to book overview

OBSEQUIOUS ACQUIESCENCE

This commentary, which was prepared for an NAB
(National Association of Broadcasters) Summit,
“Responsible Programming,” held in Washington on April
7, 2004, was widely circulated in our broadcasting
fraternity and quoted in all the major communications
journals. We called it “A Runaway Freight Train Heading
Straight for the First Amendment.” I am indebted to
Patrick Maines, Erwin Krasnow, Don West, Harry Jessell,
John Eggerton, Floyd Abrams, Nat Hentoff, and several
other First Amendment voluptuaries for their counsel and
suggestions on this essay.

A runaway train is headed straight for our profession, with a head of steam from the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) and Congress. The passenger list includes misguided regulators, legislators, concerned citizens, and even some broadcasters. We have to stop this train to preserve our politics, governance, economy, and culture.

The people, our ultimate authority, must have freedom of expression. This extraordinary gift, the right to speak, to advocate, to describe, to entertain, to perform, to dissent?to sing?is more than a wonderful privilege; it makes this democracy a miracle.

The Founding Fathers gave us freedom of expression without nuance or conditions, but plainly and purely.

Some broadcasters, through excessive bad taste, reckless reporting, pervasively biased opinions and analysis—yes, palpable unfairness—have invited laws and rulings the Founding Fathers would have abhorred.

Still, we must stop this train.

We must continue to protect the broadest possible freedom of expression for the press. All of it, written and electronic. It is the coin of our democratic realm. But the flip side of that coin is responsibility.

-11-

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