Is Howard Stern's fight to say what he wants about to begin again? After leaving the rules of the FCC behind two years ago when he went to uncensored, satellite radio, Stern's nemesis, Clear Channel, is showing its ugly anti-First Amendment face again. Remember back in 2004 when they threw Stern off of their stations after being fined by the FCC and implementing a zero-tolerance, indecency stance? Well, they are back at it. This time they can't fire him; they can just try to shut him up.
At the beginning of March and before the merger was approved by the Department of Justice, Clear Channel filed a complaint explaining why the merger should not go through. Apparently, knowing it was a long-shot, they also provided some friendly suggestions of rules that the FCC should put into place in the event that the merger was approved. One of the rules is that public-decency laws should be enforced for satellite radio because over-the-air, restricted radio cannot compete with uncensored programming.
This kind of talk from a major corporation makes me fear for the future of the First Amendment. Sure, it's probably very unlikely that the FCC could and would force broadcasters on Sirius and XM to stop saying "shit," "fuck," and "nigger" (Howard was fired from Clear Channel after a caller said the n-word), but as long as there's buzz, there's always the possibility that the government will make one of its irrational decisions to protect big business.
The fact is that Clear Channel wants to limit free speech so that it can avoid innovating. I have no doubt that they could create interesting programming, even without using the f-word, but they'd rather maintain mediocre programming and force the competition to come down to their level. And don't forget that they are giving the product away for free. They really have to make awful programming to lose out to a paid service. There are more people watching NBC than Showtime, and I haven't seen any bare breasts on NBC. So Clear Channel, stop trying to take away our ability to say what we want and start trying to come up with something that people actually want to listen to.