Friday, August 12, 2005

Censorship, Anyone? ...

Very Astute Friend L.A. Dave just sent me a link to this story:

WUKY cancels radio program over offensive content

By Jamie Gumbrecht
HERALD-LEADER CULTURE WRITER

A few weeks after The Boston Globe called The Writer’s Almanac radio program “a confection of poetry and history wrapped in the down comforter voice of producer and host Garrison Keillor,” WUKY-91.3 FM canceled the daily featurette for offensive content.

The five-minute segments aired on the University of Kentucky’s public radio station at 11 a.m. until Aug. 1. It opened with soft piano music and the voice of A Prairie Home Companion’s Keillor remembering major moments in writing history. It was a break for history between news broadcasts and pop music, each day ending with a poem and the wish to “be well, do good work and keep in touch.”

But in a time of Federal Communications Commission crackdowns on radio content, WUKY officials say, the poems Keillor read were too risky for airplay.

“I don’t question the artistic merit, but I have to question the language,” WUKY General Manager Tom Godell said. “It’s not that he’s behaving like Howard Stern, but the FCC has been so inconsistent, we don’t know where we stand. We could no longer risk a fine.”

-- snip --

The warnings, issued by the program’s production company, came about Curse of the Cat Woman by Edward Field, which contained violent themes and the word “breast”; Thinking About the Past by Donald Justice, which also used the word “breast”; and Reunion by Amber Coverdale, which contained the phrase “get high.” The poems were scheduled for broadcast between July 23 and Aug. 12.

WUKY never heard complaints about The Writer’s Almanac because the station always edited potentially offensive language, Godell said. Prairie Home Productions and American Public Media, the segment’s producer and distributor, do not edit or select the content.

-- snip --

Keillor, who will perform Feb. 21 at Centre College’s Norton Center for the Arts, said in an e-mail that stations are within their rights to cancel the Almanac but he’s proud of the poems he reads.

“There isn’t one of them I would hesitate to offer to any high school English class,” Keillor wrote. “The fact that someone is troubled by hearing the word ‘breast’ is interesting, but what are we supposed to do with A Visit From St. Nicholas and the ‘breast of the new fallen snow’? Should it become a shoulder or an elbow? I don’t think so.”

-- snip --

“The purpose of public broadcasting is not to be safe, but to be useful, good, to give people something to think about, something to grow on,” Press said. “Survival is not more important than being useful.”

Press, an ardent fan of Keillor’s writing and performing, called the cancellation an overreaction.


Not a day goes by anymore that I don't run across something that leaves me shaking my head in utter disbelief, and my fist at the idiots who are allowing this to happen.

By this standard, if I went on this station, would I be barred from talking about the breast cancer walk I'm doing next month?

And yet, people are allowed to protest funerals of gay soldiers? Funny what purposes the Bill of Rights suits these days. Because clearly, the First Amendment is about to go the way of the ivory-billed woodpecker, once thought extinct. I hope someone finds the First Amendment in Arkansas again someday, because it's clearly vanished from one radio station in Kentucky.

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