Vox Populi: The O'Shaughnessy Files

By William O’Shaughnessy | Go to book overview

REMARKS PREPARED FOR
THE MEDIA INSTITUTE

The Media Institute is a highly regarded Washington think
tank that has done brilliant work on free speech and First
Amendment issues for many years. It is ably led by Patrick
Maines and Rick Kaplar, who are our sentinels on the
Potomac against government intrusion. Here are the
remarks we prepared on February 1, 2005, for this
valuable and influential entity.

I am a broadcaster and a businessman. So I quite understand the practical, political reasons why our fellow broadcasters are signing consent decrees with the FCC to settle indecency complaints: the cost of doing business.

But how high a price are we willing to pay?

Being about “the people’s business,” we should avoid consenting to censorship.

We are licensed to operate “in the public interest.” The public should be primarily interested in a powerful electronic media, free to tell the truth, either through a news story or artistic expression.

Clearly, the government is neglecting the people’s interest and the Constitution when it uses its vast life-and-death power to censor information, images, words, or expressions.

Such a climate is dangerously rampant today, and it breeds intolerance. And our profession has done nothing, collectively or individually, to stop it.

We await a savior, a statesman. “Where have you gone, Mr. Paley? Where have you gone, Dr. Stanton?”

We—all the disparate elements of our profession: radio, television, the networks, the independents and the groups—will one day regret our failure to check government regulation of indecent speech if we decide the next controversial category is worth fighting for.

If we wait until our own ox gets gored, it will be too late.

-38-

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