Clear Channel violated Howard Stern

Stern’s show is vile and disgusting but we will stand as strongly by his right to free speech as we do to ours.

After Janet Jackson literally caused a flap over media content, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell got his panties in a bunch and threatened fines and investigations. In response, Clear Channel Communications dropped Howard Stern’s radio show from six radio stations last week. The cancellations are anything but funny and pose a grave danger to the future of free speech in this country.

Do not misunderstand – Stern’s radio show is vile and disgusting and often seems to emphasize a mental devolution of humankind. Stern’s show is often rounded out with flatulence and jokes about the disabled. But we will stand as strongly by Stern’s right to free speech as we do to ours.

If people do not want to hear Stern, the best solution is to stop listening to him. There is no law forbidding the turning of radio dials. Minnesota Family Council President Tom Prichard objected when Stern’s radio show made its debut in Minnesota in 1997: “Minnesota needs Howard Stern like a fish needs an oil spill.” Months later, Stern’s show was off the air in Minnesota but not because an overpowering media conglomerate decided to censor it. Rather, the show failed because of low ratings. This is the way it should be. Consumers should be allowed to decide whether shows continue.

Censorship not only violates the First Amendment, it mutes public dialogue and debate. Clear Channel claims Stern violated decency standards, but this argument is fraught with potential danger. Could Clear Channel fire radio jockeys for their support of gay marriage or the discussion of sexually transmitted infections or for supporting gun rights?

Today’s media decency standards are puritanical and often used as an excuse to mute unpopular opinion. The standards presuppose that individual Americans should not have the power to select what they should and should not listen to. They do not give the U.S. public a chance to exercise its right of protest. Thus, Clear Channel not only violated Stern’s rights but the rights of all Americans. Stern should be allowed to broadcast his show. Let the consumers decide its fate lest the First Amendment is taken away from the rest of Americans.