Radio


Today is Towel Day, its a day where fans of Douglas Adams the brilliant author of the misnamed Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, commemorate the passing of such a great mind as Douglas Adams by carrying a towel all day. (a la the main characters of the series.)

Towel Day – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Douglas Adam’s writing’s effected my life in so many ways. He and his characters are part of who I am. There aren’t many writers that can so subtle affect society and people in so many ways.

Towel Day :: A tribute to Douglas Adams (1952-2001)

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have. Partly it has great practical
value – you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you – daft as a bush, but very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost”. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Hitchhikers Guide Box Art

Yesterday would seem to have been the end of the controversy; Don Imus was fired by CBS from his radio show, airing out of New York.

Last week, the controversial host made some “racially insensitive” comments about the Rutgers’ Women’s Basketball team, calling them “nappy headed ho’s”.

At first, Imus’ reaction was to basically state that it was a joke, but a stupid one. When public emotion began to stir up, the “I-Man” made the decision to go on the Rev. Al Sharpton’s radio show to offer a public apology. During the interview, Imus appeared and sounded contrite and regretful. However, in one particularly testy interchange with Sharpton and an African-American lawyer also present in the studio, he had the following exchange:

‘After disagreeing with a female caller, Imus said: “I can’t get anywhere with you people.”

“What do you mean by ‘you people’?” Sharpton asked.

Imus retorted: “Don’t lay that on me — that’s jive.”‘ – Source, mediabistro.com

Then, MSNBC decided that it would no longer simulcast Imus’ radio show. Sponsors like Staples began to pull ad buys. CBS declared that Imus would be suspended for two weeks following a annual charity broadcast by the radio jock for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

But the fervor didn’t stop there. Lead by prominent black leaders Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson, more and more people began crying for Imus to be fired. Sharpton went so far as to say that Imus needed to be made an example, to illustrate the consequences for racially insensitve comments.

Finally, yesterday, Imus was officially fired by CBS radio.

What do you think?

Personally, I of course think Imus made some mistakes. The comment was dumb, idiotic, and asinine. However, perhaps an even bigger mistake was the degree and the parties to whom Imus chose to apologize to.

The comments were made about the Rutgers team. The first and ONLY apology should have been to them. End of story, end of controversy. Something like: “I said something stupid, it was an intended joke, I went too far. To the ladies to whom I referenced, I am truly sorry. I would be happy to meet with them in person to offer my regrets again should they choose.” That’s it.

The selective outrage (a great term I heard used on ESPN radio yesterday) to which the complainers are voicing is, I believe in part, sincere. However, I think it is also in some ways a power grab by Revs. Sharpton and Jackson, eager to show political parties coming into an election year the amount of influence they wield.

Don Imus has been making these comments for years. It’s part of his show, a show that up until this week two major networks were totally fine with while they raked in the advertising dollars. For them to turn their backs on him now is the height of hypocrisy, especially CBS, who had declared the 2-week suspension until Sharpton met with them yesterday afternoon, then Les Moonves miraculously emerged and said the Imus was done. Interesting. He hadn’t even STARTED serving his suspension yet.

What does this mean for the broadcast medium? For us as a society? Certainly, it looks as though race is no longer a subject for humor whatsoever, unless the race you choose to make fun of is one no one will be selectively outraged by (I won’t say which race(s), for fear of choosing the wrong one).

This kind of selective censorship is very scary. When the next group comes along (say, those outraged by ridicule of Democrats, Republicans, Catholics, Jews, the young, the old, the fat, the short, the vegetarians, the meat-eaters, those who watch “Survivor” vs those who don’t….and on and on and on, are they any more or less justified than when the issue is race?

However, the outraged are not the only ones to blame. The media, in its perpetual self-sustaining mode, continues to foment and encourage the conflict. Their classic move is to go to one party, get a quote, then take the statement to the other side and say “Did you hear what he said?”, then get another quote, and back and forth. Then you go in studio every hour, has over the rhetoric and ask questions like “Is this a big deal?”, “Can the two sides settle this conflict?”, and blah-beh-dee-blah-blah. And of course you can’t criticize the media, freedom of the press has translated today into freedom to stir up trouble.

Recently, I posted a story about a public library offering family friendly video games for checkout. My friend Keith in effect said that this is a dangerous precedent to set. I now see what he was saying, and I now agree. Offer the games with a checkout policy (follow the rating system on the games themselves and check out accordingly), or don’t offer them at all, otherwise you’re on a slippery slope. Keith was right.

Through his mistakes, his apologies, and his fall from grace, Imus has inadvertently illustrated to us just how lopsided things can get in this “free” society of ours.

So, finally, some questions:

When can we finally move past the issue of race? What’s the end game? the end result? the desired outcome? I’m not asking this to be flip, I truly want to know.

Who decides what we can and can’t say? What are those parameters? At what point does free speech end and corporate responsibility begin?

What topics are off limits? Off limits to who? When are they off limits?

Is racial equality really, as Martin Luther King said, about being judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin? Was he wrong? Should race be a defining characteristic for people?

Are people allowed to make mistakes with the things that they say? What kind, and how severe? How often?

Are we allowed to offend? If not, what are the consequences?

Again, I’m not asking these questions coyly or with some ulterior motive in mind. I would really like to know the answers.

Last question, are there answers?

Satellite “blood feud” enemies Sirius and XM are in deep talks at the Chairman level to merge their burgeoning, all be it foundering, companies. Here is the article from Advertising Age:

XM, Sirius Top Execs Stir Up Merger Talk

According to the report, the two parties have been meeting extensively over the last few weeks about a possible merger.

Sirius CEO Mel Karmazin seems much more enthused about the idea than XM’s Chairman Gary Parsons. And well he should. Sirius is dwelling in stock market obscurity at $4 a share, while XM is doing just slightly better at $16. Sirius has gone deep into the red in paying their air talent (including the self-proclamed “King of All Media” Howard Stern) exorbitant amounts of money, while XM seems to be plodding along in building their empire nice and slow.

Would a merger be a short-term boon for subscribers to both services? Insiders have said that subscribers would have no change to their current deal. But does that just mean that their fees would remain constant, or does it suggest that you’d keep the same set of stations?

Satellite radio seemed to be slightly ahead of the curve in the realm of on-demand streaming entertainment. While a combined 13.6 million subscribers is nothing to sneeze at, I’m sure investors were counting on a lot more people to be paying for their radio.

Don’t discount a certain psychological factor for consumers as a whole. Until recently, radio was free. Anytime you wanted to listen, you just flicked a switch and there you were. The concept of paying for radio could just feel “wrong” to people. Imagine 25 years ago when some fledgling companies dared flaunt the idea of paying for tv stations via a cable that came in through your house. Cable TV took almost a decade to catch on, and even then it wasn’t the norm in households until the 1990s.

I like the idea of satellite radio, especially in markets/areas where the pickin’s are slim radio-wise. I fully plan on getting satellite radio once my wife and I move to Houston (sometime this year), as I won’t be able to listen to country/Latino stations 24 hours a day.

The government, of course, is worried about the two companies forming a monopoly. What do you think?

— Rob, Editor-in-Chief (the “geeksinger”)