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staff and management team in their responsibility to respond to their local
markets."
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While the statement might seem to end the matter, it's just as telling for what
it doesn't say as for what it does. Clear Channel correctly pointed out that the
original e-mail didn't directly order anyone to ban any songs, but no where in the
statement does the company deny that a list of "lyrically questionable" songs was
created, edited by management, redistributed to its stations by its own executives,
and then acted upon by its employees. The statement denies the existence of an
explicit ban, which is accurate, but does not deny the existence of the distributed
list. Further, the statement does not deny any censorious actions by its employ-
ees.
While Clear Channel is quick to point out there was no explicit censorship
involved with the list, it is a perfect example of music censorship at its most
implicit. Regardless of Clear Channel's intentions, censorship did occur. While
many Clear Channel programmers were quoted in the media as saying that they
did not follow the suggestions of the e-mail, many times more said they did
indeed remove songs from broadcast because of the list or its suggested sense of
restraint, including some of the largest of Clear Channels' stations in Los Angeles,
New York, Cleveland, Houston, and Chicago.
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Further, while there was no explicit
directive from Evans, he is an executive with a tremendous amount of sway over
the future of the email recipients' careers. Arguably, when someone like Evans
makes a suggestions, it is in the program directors' best interest to follow it.
Unfortunately, the news media didn't apply the necessary scrutiny to Clear
Channel 's statement. Just as quickly as the media was swept into the controversy,
the entire incident was written off as a "hoax," disappearing from public discus-
sion. Thanks to Clear Channel's savvy statement, follow-up stories stated that the
list didn't exist at all, simply repeating the company's position without any scru-
tiny and skepticism. Most reports suggested that earlier reports were no more
credible than any other Internet hoax, such as get rich quick chain e-mail schemes
or tales of sick children needing correspondence.
Arguments over the complicated truth of various accusations and denials sur-
rounding the Clear Channel list tend to distort the most troubling aspects of the
incident. The real issue lies in the list's content, leading one to wonder exactly
what Clear Channel's executives and programmers were trying to restrain.
While the list was mainly comprised of songs bearing lyrical references to
burning, death, and airplanes; arguably an earnest, if ill-advised, attempt to show
sensitivity to the heightened emotions in the wake of the September 11
th
attacks.
But the list also advocated censure for "Peace Train " by Cat Stevens , John Lennon 's