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obligation to maintain a standard of decency as a licensed user of the pubic air-
waves?"
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In a speech to the National Association of Broadcasters , Brownback insinuated
that recent attempts at self-regulation would not be enough to stem the tide of
indecency . He also suggested that the Super Bowl incident and other offensive
radio and television broadcasts gave ammunition to terrorists in the "cultural
war" being waged in Iraq.
In April, as a response to the newly introduced "get tough" measures, a group
of 24 organizations including Fox, Viacom
, and the Recording Industry
Association of America filed a petition asking the FCC to reconsider some of its
recent rulings. According to the 70-page document, the FCC's new guidelines
mark a radical shift in policy that violates constitutionally protected free speech.
"The FCC announced a standard that would allow it to censor all kinds of things
anything considered blasphemous, coarse, or vulgar," said Robert Corn-Revere,
who represented the petitioners. "It puts the commission in the role of regulating
taste."
The petition cited several examples of the "chilling effect" created by the new
measures, including radio stations pulling songs from airplay that had previously
aired, in some cases, for decades. Radio programmers feared that the new sensi-
tivities of the FCC might lead to penalties for material previously deemed appro-
priate for broadcast. Some newly-banned songs contained sexual innuendo, such
as John Mellencamp 's "Jack and Diane"
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and Lou Reed 's "Walk on the Wild
Side."
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Some songs were pulled for tepid profanity, such as "Money" by Pink
Floyd .
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Others were pulled from play for references to violence, drugs, or the
occult, such as Steppenwolf 's "The Pusher ,"
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Pearl Jam 's "Jeremy,"
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and Sheryl
Crow 's "A Change Will Do You Good."
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"Rock'n Me Baby," by Steve Miller Band ,
was apparently pulled simply for repeatedly containing the word "rockin'." Some
songs had garnered significant public tumult when they were originally released,
such as Steppenwolf's "The Pusher ." Originally released in 1968, the song became
so controversial that the band was forbidden to sing the song's lyrics during a
North Carolina concert. The band circumvented the ban by having the audience
sing the words instead. Despite initial contention, the song went on to become a
staple of rock radio for more than 35 years.
It is worth noting that most of the profanity, or arguably inappropriate lyrics,
in songs were already "bleeped" out or removed in previous radio versions.
Under these new standards, even the edited, profanity-free versions were not
played by stations. By and large, most of the songs pulled from radio play were
done so out of oversensitivity and fear of reprisal rather than any legitimate