Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Off again, on again

The general manager of the public radio station in Lexington, Ky., caused a minor flap late last week by announcing that he was pulling Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac off WUKY. Tom Godell expressed some dismay at the language that was cropping up in some of the poems that Keillor had read on the program and fear that his station would be fined by the Federal Communications Commission. Keillor was certainly no Howard Stern, Godell said, but “the FCC has been so inconsistent, we don’t know where we stand.”

That was Friday. By Saturday Keillor was back. The station received so many phone calls and emails from its listeners that Godell was forced to relent. One of those who protested was Leonard Press, the founder and long-time director of Kentucky Educational Television who called the cancellation "an overreaction" and said, "This is a man who is one of the premier writers and performers of our time. I think he's generally recognized for his tastefulness." according to a report in the Cincinnati Post. (See also report in the Lexington Herald Leader.) Godell said he decided to cancel the show after an increasing number of “language advisories” had been sent to produces. Such advisories alert stations to the possibilities of language that might not be suitable to all audiences. In this case, there were references to the female breast and in one poem to getting “high.” While many (including Keillor) are castigating Godell for his decision, we might want to examine whether or not the FCC has created a climate where such fears are legitimate. The heavy-handedness of the FCC should be remembered along with the names of Janet Jackson and Howard Stern.

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