Buzzmachine's Jeff Jarvis has a wonderfully spirited piece about Howard Stern and free speech in the current issue of The Nation (which safely titles the story "F*cked by the F*CC, thereby not only censoring dirty words itself but putting an extra letter in FCC; go figure).
The assault on free speech isn't coming just from the FCC and Congress. The Federal Trade Commission just stepped up monitoring of media violence, "including complaints about the advertising, marketing, and sale of violent movies, electronic games (including video games), and music." And Attorney General John Ashcroft has launched a multimillion-dollar war on pornography. Says the Baltimore Sun: "Nothing is off limits, they warn, even soft-core cable programs such as HBO's long-running Real Sex or the adult movies widely offered in guestrooms of major hotel chains." …
What we're really seeing is the final nail in the coffin of the mass market and of one-size-fits-all media.
Advertising Age says that the new Puritanism will drive the young and desirable edgy elite to satellite and cable, raising the average age of TV's audience and tearing apart the mass audience. This will hasten a fundamental shift in the center of gravity of American media. Broadcast TV and radio will become (even more) boring, old, predictable and safe and will keep shrinking. Younger audiences–along with the advertising dollars and creative talent aimed at them–will migrate (no: stampede) to cable, satellite and the Internet and then to on-demand delivery over high-speed wireless. These alternate media won't become moral cesspools, for they've already sown their sexual oats: Look at how HBO started with tittering flashes of tit but now produces the leading edge of entertainment; look at the shrinking market-share of sleaze on the Internet. The audience will continue to fragment in slices of slices as even the Internet creates new markets (witness the blossoming of blogs). News and commentary will be delivered via every angle of the political prism. Media will internationalize as never before. Since there will be no more mass medium, advertising will become laser-targeted. The people formerly known as the audience will gain more choice, more involvement, more ownership of their media. The greatest cultural change agent of recent history turns out to be the remote control, which gave us command of our media and took it away from the national nannies. That's why they're in such a panic. …
Stern is an antidote to all the overpackaged, smiley, phony, condescending pap of personality in American media and entertainment. In an age of predictable news (shouldn't news be just the opposite?) and political correctness and numbing national rhetoric, Stern cuts through the crap and says what he thinks–and what many of us think. And that is incredibly refreshing. No, it's liberating.
Let's be honest: We don't all talk like Hallmark cards and human resources directors. When we sit in the bar with friends, we gossip about people we hate; we joke about sex. And on our couches, when we watch the news, we think thoughts we won't admit. Stern admits them. Is he sexist? By many definitions, sure. But unlike many a wolf in sensitive-man clothing, he's straightforward about it. Is he racist? No. He has racists on the show, and he ridicules them because idiots are entertaining. Admit it: When you watch reality shows, you love to make fun of the fools on them, and that's not necessarily something to be proud of–but making fun of racist bozos is. Stern gives us credit for knowing they're offensive; he doesn't have to explain that to us or protect us from it. The nannies and the PC police only insult our intelligence when they think they need to save us.
Stern shies away from no sacred cow. He is a positive force in American media. Just as weblogs tweak big media to keep them honest, Stern pushes the line to keep politicians and celebrities and his audience honest. So I like to listen to him. If you don't, fine. Listen to something else. I won't stop you. Just don't stop me….
It's a wide-ranging, interesting, and important piece that touches not simply on government regulation of speech, but PC attacks on the same, and the changing nature of the mediascape. Read the whole thing.