Adding an additional safeguard against anything actionably indecent getting out on the air, Emmis plans to hire at least two paralegals to augment existing indecency protections. While no hires have been made, the company is looking to add paralegals in Chicago (for Mancow's Morning Madhouse on WKQX) and in St. Louis (perhaps for The Howard Stern Show, which KPNT carries).
"We already have a layer or two - this would be a back-up system - an added measure," Emmis spokeswoman Kate Healey tells FMQB. The extra layer would augment existing precautions by giving a person with a legal background access to the dump button.
Emmis has $28,000 in pending indecency fines for a series of three-year-old Mancow broadcasts.
Company president Jeff Smulyan says the company is taking the additional measure to err on the side of caution. "If you're asking if there has been overcaution on the part of broadcasters today, I think the answer is yes," The New York Times quotes Smulyan as saying. "Everyone is going to err on the side of caution. There is too much at stake. People are just not sure what the standards really are."
As most anyone in radio can attest, uncertainty about exactly where "the line" is currently positioned has resulted in extreme measures. In Emmis' hometown of Indy, WIBC-AM edited Rush Limbaugh 11 times on March 3 (the day after the company instituted a "zero tolerance" policy) for words like "urinate," "damn," and "orgy." The Times also reports that WABC/New York edited the word "parachute" after one of its personalities mispronounced the last syllable of the word!
Meanwhile, Stuart Epperson, co-founder of conservative Christian broadcaster Salem Communications has come out against legislation that would regulate broadcast content. While Epperson is not a Howard Stern fan, he worries that proposed indecency legislation would have unintended consequences.
"Mark my words however, if impending government action can cause Howard Stern to be taken off the air, imagine a bill that would give the FCC power to so regulate content that after three fines for violating standards set by fiat, a station could lose its license," Epperson said in a commentary published by WashingtonDispatch.com.
Epperson isn't worried about what a Commission "dominated by reasonable people" might might do. Instead, he imagines a hypothetical where a newly elected President Hillary Rodham Clinton "appoints radical liberals to the FCC." Armed with license revocation powers for obscene content, "these Commissioners determine that conservative views constitute hate speech - and hate speech is obscene." In Epperson's what-if scenario, the Commission declares that comments against gay marriage constitute discriminatory hate speech. "Armed with that sort of ammunition, the FCC would have no problem finding the excuse for shutting down those voices that broadcast what they would call homophobic views."