Do You Really Want to Defend Free Speech Over Shock Jocks?

I count myself as a staunch proponent of free speech even when it offends and even when it challenges society's tolerance for it.

I don't want the FCC, Congress, religious leaders or school teachers having an unusually influential say as to what can be said, shown or written. The FCC is a flawed group of political appointees. Congress is a flawed group of men and women who answer to a higher power -- special interest groups. Religious leaders are nice people, but they have fallen off their pedestals in the past decade more frequently than ordinary sinners -- sex scandals, power struggles, misguided organizing campaigns.

No, I don't want these folks deciding what I can broadcast, write or show.

I say this because I am increasingly concerned that the more-than-desperate radio industry is on its way to forcing a showdown over shock jocks and their right to be ignorant fools.

Observe this video chronicling one family's fight against Mikey -- the offensive Clear Channel shock jock who enjoys a free pass from the FCC and also from the biggest consolidator. It's rather long so sample as much or as little as you can, and I'll come back and tell you why I am really concerned as to how our precious freedoms are in jeopardy as never before.

Society has had its fill of shock jocks from all sides and all angles and I sense the average person is looking for some "censorship". This would be awful -- almost as bad as having to put up with such ignorance on the air.

The right to free speech is always hard fought and always precarious. It is the balance of a benchmark of a free society and the sensibilities of our various communities in which we reside.

So, I suggest the following resolutions:

Fight for free speech and tolerate more than you can handle because the alternative is no solution and eventually leads to rebellion. In the age of the Internet it is almost impossible to censor anything so be cognizant of that.

Radio owners, show some responsibility.

You can't hire people like Don Imus and actually put in the employment contract the kind of language that will inspire them to make trouble. CBS egged Imus on. Imus went over the line. But he's not alone. Rush Limbaugh gets away with it as does Michael Savage and countless other shock jocks.

Radio, stop being pathetic.

I know some of you don't like it when I talk about the next generation, but they are laughing at your desperate attempts to get ratings. You've lost them and even if you can somehow manage to keep your older listeners, you are in jeopardy of having to fight for your freedom of expression.

If we have to most of us would fight for the right to say almost anything not obscene on the air. But do you really want to defend free speech over Michael Savage or Opie & Anthony?

Radio execs, stop going into damage control mode every time you screw up.

Epiphanies that allow you to fire your shock jocks in the name of decency is indecent in and of itself. It's a free pass you don't deserve. It's, well, it's like going to rehab with Britney Spears for a few weeks and making everything better.

Everything is not better. You look like fools and you are fools to program such garbage and call it radio -- especially when you are losing audience.

In the end it will take courage to fight for freedom of expression while exercising good judgement over what's worth fighting for.

Shock jocks are a disgrace to radio and we can all do better.

Let's start.

Dan Mason has.

He fired "The Dog House with JV and Elvis," hosted by Jeff Vandergrift and Dan Lay for prank phone calls packed with Asian stereotypes and insults.

They're not worth the fight when their only goal was to insult, incite and offend. They still live in a country where they can feel free to rant if they like.

They just can't do it on CBS' license at WFNY, New York.

Mel Karmazin fought for his investment in Howard Stern during his Infinity days paying lots of legal bills to defend Stern's right to push the envelope.

Stern took his act to satellite radio where it belongs.

The balance between freedom of expression and censorship is responsibility. Hopefully, broadcasters can learn this lesson before the interest groups, political leaders and clergy hit a nerve for increased censorship -- something free broadcasting has managed to avoid during its long history.