[nlgcdc] Fwd: Sarah Jones' & FCC censorship

Peter Franck pfranck@culturelaw.com
Sun, 07 Apr 2002 17:54:48 -0700


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>Delivered-To: activist-outgoing@mail.serve.com
>Delivered-To: activist@serve.com
>Date: Sun, 7 Apr 2002 17:40:42 -0700 (PDT)
>From: Jennifer Pozner <jennpozner@yahoo.com>
>Subject: [MediaAct] i wrote on Sarah Jones' FCC censorship last year
>To: activist@mediatank.org
>Sender: owner-activist@mail.serve.com
>Reply-To: activist@mediatank.org
>
>just got back from the reproductive rights & social justice conference put 
>on annually by the Civil Liberties & Public Policy Program at Hampshire 
>College. it was, as it always is, an amazing event, bringing together 
>young womnen who organizine around abortion rights but also focus on 
>everything from ending the occupation in Palestine to welfare organizing, 
>women in prison, global trade and its effects on international human 
>rights as well as its effects on women's health, to youth activism... and 
>they seem to be really open to media stuff. i did a luncheon workshop on 
>media issues and people were really happy to hear strategies they can use 
>re. pro-feminist PR, progressive media reform, etc.  (oh, and one of the 
>women at the conference is a DC activist who organizes around feminist 
>issues as well as homeless rights, HIV prevention, environmentalism and 
>volunteers at the DC Indymedia).  most of the attendees were young women - 
>high school and college aged (although there were some women in their 30s, 
>40s and 50s there, too)  -- their understanding of the interconnectedness 
>of all these issues and the need for multiple approaches at once really 
>gave me hope.
>
>ok, anyway, here's an article i did on Sarah Jones & the FCC last year:
>
>CENSORS SET SIGHTS ON FEMINIST MUSICIANS
>
>By Jennifer L. Pozner, for Sojourner, Sept. 2001
>
>
>
>Feminists have long argued over the most appropriate response to sexism in 
>popular culture, from bigoted talk shows and demeaning music videos to 
>constant controversies over hate speech and pornography. Two recent 
>attacks on feminist musicians illustrate why censorship is not the answer.
>
>
>
>RACISM ISN'T "UPBEAT" ENOUGH FOR CBS
>
>On July 19, independent feminist folksinger Ani DiFranco was scheduled to 
>make her second appearance on Late Night with David Letterman. But, as the 
>Washington Post reported, producers canceled DiFranco's performance when 
>she insisted on singing "Subdivision," a song about American racism and 
>suburban "white flight" that begins:
>
>
>
>"White people are so scared of black people
>
>they bulldoze out to the country
>
>and put up houses on little loop-dee-loop streets
>
>And while America gets its heart cut
>
>right out of its chest
>
>the Berlin wall still runs down Main Street
>
>separating east side from west"
>
>
>
>DiFranco's song connects the dots between social segregation and mindless 
>consumerism ("we're led by denial like lambs to the slaughter/ serving 
>empires of style and carbonated sugar water"), and ends by daring each 
>individual to take responsibility for, and overcome, social injustice:
>
>  "I'm wondering what it will take
>
>  for my country to rise
>
>  first we admit our mistakes
>
>  and then we open our eyes
>
>  or nature succumbs to one last dumb decision
>
>  and America the beautiful
>
>  is just one big subdivision"
>
>
>
>Not the sort of message commonly heard on network TV-- and CBS seemed to 
>want to keep it that way.
>
>
>
>Days before her scheduled appearance, Letterman's producers told DiFranco 
>that "Subdivision" wasn't "up-tempo" enough, and demanded she sing a more 
>"upbeat" song, "Heartbreak Even," instead. "Subdivision" was not rejected 
>because of its subject matter, the producers told the Post, it's just that 
>the love song about a stalled relationship was "preferable musically." 
>When DiFranco refused to make the switch, Letterman replaced her with 
>another band.
>
>
>
>"Subdivision" is one of the most talked-about tracks on Reveling and 
>Reckoning, the latest of fourteen albums the 30-year-old musician has 
>released on her own independent label, Righteous Babe Records. For years, 
>DiFranco has been pursued by many major labels but has rejected them all. 
>A statement on the Righteous Babe web site explained to fans why she 
>wouldn't simply accommodate Letterman's people: "As a matter of principle 
>and a privilege of her hard-earned independence, Ani does not perform 
>songs on demand... Faced with a choice between playing something 'upbeat' 
>yet apolitical or not playing at all, Ani chose the latter."
>
>
>
>It's no surprise that corporate media prefer the homogenous drumbeat of 
>the status quo over art that is politically challenging and unique. It's 
>worth noting that if DiFranco were signed to a corporate label where 
>profits and exposure are valued more than principle, it's doubtful the 
>folksinger would have been allowed to bow out of a major TV gig simply 
>because she'd prefer to sing a harder-hitting song.
>
>
>
>FEMINIST RAP TOO "INDECENT" FOR THE FCC
>
>Self-censorship like the sort practiced by Letterman's producers pales in 
>comparison to the broader-based suppression of speech by government 
>"indecency standards," an unintended consequence of which is the stifling 
>of voices attempting to critique indecency.
>
>
>
>At a party sponsored by Puff Daddy, feminist rap artist Sarah Jones 
>finally got fed up. "I was standing there like some video ho, singing 
>along to 'bitches ain't shit but hoes and tricks,'" she told AlterNet's 
>Sara Riscol. "I thought, Something has gone awry. This is not me, you 
>know, I disagree!"
>
>
>
>So instead of singing along to degrading lyrics, she started rapping about 
>them. The result is "Your Revolution (will not happen between these 
>thighs)," a fierce, feminist reinterpretation of the famous poem "The 
>Revolution Will Not Be Televised." Jones' directly references and 
>renounces the rhymes of some of hip-hop's most famous stars, including 
>L.L. Cool J, the Notorious B.I.G., Foxy Brown and others:
>
>
>
>"Your revolution will not happen between these thighs...
>
>  Your revolution will not find me in the back seat of a jeep
>
>  with L.L. hard as hell, you know
>
>  doing it and doing and doing it well,you know...
>
>  Your revolution will not be you smacking it up, flipping it or rubbing 
> it down
>
>  nor will it take you downtown, or humping around
>
>  Your revolution will not have me singing Ain't no nigger like the one I got
>
>  Your revolution will not be you sending me for no drip drip V.D. shot...
>
>  or me giving up my behind just so I can get signed
>
>  and maybe have somebody else write my rhymes...
>
>  Because the real revolution
>
>  That's right, I said the real revolution...
>
>  When it finally comes, it's gonna be real"
>
>
>
>The lyrics Jones refers to in "Your Revolution" come from some of the most 
>well-known rap songs ever played on MTV and over the commercial airwaves, 
>most of which have never garnered a peep of protest from the FCC. But as 
>the Village Voice's Chisun Lee and AlterNet's Lara Riscol reported, when 
>Portland, Oregon's community radio station KBOO played "Your Revolution," 
>the FCC slapped them with a $7,000 fine for violating FCC indecency standards.
>
>
>
>Come again?
>
>
>
>In its ruling, the FCC said Jones' attack on hip hop misogyny contained 
>"unmistakable patently offensive sexual references" that "appear to be 
>designed to pander and shock." KBOO's assertion that the song is "a 
>feminist attack on male attempts to equate political 'revolution' with 
>promiscuous sex" and "as such, is not indecent" did not impress the FCC. 
>In keeping with a long history of radio censorship, the FCC stated that 
>though "The contemporary social commentary in 'Your Revolution' is a 
>relevant contextual consideration," when it comes down to it political 
>context is irrelevant: "the Commission has rejected an approach to 
>indecency that would hold that material is not per se indecent if the 
>material has merit."
>
>
>
>Two weeks after punishing KBOO, the FCC doled out another $7,000 indecency 
>fine; this time to Colorado Springs' commercial station KKMG for  playing 
>an edited version of the Eminem hit "The Real Slim Shady" -- even though 
>KKMG bleeped out or removed expletives before the song aired.
>
>
>
>Government regulation of content it deems offensive is a dubious practice, 
>as Jones' case illustrates. When a feminist hip-hop artist presents a 
>challenging, progressive response to exploitative music only to find her 
>own manifesto derided by the FCC as "patently offensive"--and when the 
>commission places her political critique in the same category as music 
>that glorifies violent sexism and homophobia by artists like Eminem--it is 
>clear how ill-suited the FCC is to judge indecency.
>
>
>
>Rather than acting as arbitrary arbiters of "indecency," the FCC's time 
>and energy would be far better spent regulating ownership, cross-holdings, 
>hiring and promotions, and public-use in the media industry. The rapid 
>pace of media mergers has a far more wide-ranging impact on media than do 
>any decency standards: the larger media conglomerates becomes, the more 
>prone they are to promote offensive yet lucrative media personalities from 
>lewd and scatalogical morning shock jocks to musical provocateurs like 
>Eminem, who attract the young male demographic demanded by advertisers. 
>Yet the FCC's interest in regulating corporate control of the public 
>airwaves seems to be at an all-time low. FCC chair Michael Powell has 
>advocated a deregulatory strategy that would likely remove the remaining 
>legal limits on media consolidation.
>
>
>
>By penalizing KBOO, the government is punishing an attempt to respond  to 
>offensive speech with more speech.  Sarah Jones' critique is likely to be 
>a more effective response than censorship to violent and misogynist lyrics 
>like Eminem's--but if the FCC fails to uphold its mandate of maintaining a 
>diversity of voices on the public airwaves, there will be fewer and fewer 
>places where such a critique is likely to be heard.
>
>Bio: Jennifer L. Pozner once sang (incredibly off-key) on stage with Ani 
>DiFranco. For a FAIR action alert by Peter Hart with FCC contact 
>information: www.fair.org/activism/fcc-decency.html. To hear Ani DiFranco 
>sing "Subdivision" live on Democracy Now!: 
>www.webactive.com/pacifica/demnow/dn20010504.html. To hear "Your 
>Revolution": 
><http://www.airbubble.com/your_revolution.html>www.airbubble.com/your_revolution.html. 
>
>
>
>
>
>
>Do You Yahoo!?
>Yahoo! Tax Center - online filing with TurboTax

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<html>
<br>
<blockquote type=3Dcite class=3Dcite cite>Delivered-To:
activist-outgoing@mail.serve.com<br>
Delivered-To: activist@serve.com<br>
Date: Sun, 7 Apr 2002 17:40:42 -0700 (PDT)<br>
From: Jennifer Pozner &lt;jennpozner@yahoo.com&gt;<br>
Subject: [MediaAct] i wrote on Sarah Jones' FCC censorship last=20
year<br>
To: activist@mediatank.org<br>
Sender: owner-activist@mail.serve.com<br>
Reply-To: activist@mediatank.org<br>
<br>
just got back from the reproductive rights &amp; social justice
conference put on annually by the Civil Liberties &amp; Public Policy
Program at Hampshire College. it was, as it always is, an amazing event,
bringing together young womnen who organizine around abortion rights but
also focus on everything from ending the occupation in Palestine to
welfare organizing, women in prison, global trade and its effects on
international human rights as well as its effects on women's health, to
youth activism... and they seem to be really open to media stuff. i did a
luncheon workshop on media issues and people were really happy to hear
strategies they can use re. pro-feminist PR, progressive media reform,
etc.&nbsp; (oh, and one of the women at the conference is a DC activist
who organizes around feminist issues as well as homeless rights, HIV
prevention, environmentalism and volunteers at the DC Indymedia).&nbsp;
most of the attendees were young women - high school and college aged
(although there were some women in their 30s, 40s and 50s there,
too)&nbsp; -- their understanding of the interconnectedness of all these
issues and the need for multiple approaches at once really gave me
hope.&nbsp; <br><br>
ok, anyway, here's an article i did on Sarah Jones &amp; the FCC last
year: <br><br>
CENSORS SET SIGHTS ON FEMINIST MUSICIANS<br><br>
By Jennifer L. Pozner, for Sojourner, Sept. 2001<br><br>
&nbsp;<br><br>
Feminists have long argued over the most appropriate response to sexism
in popular culture, from bigoted talk shows and demeaning music videos to
constant controversies over hate speech and pornography. Two recent
attacks on feminist musicians illustrate why censorship is not the
answer. <br><br>
&nbsp;<br><br>
RACISM ISN'T &quot;UPBEAT&quot; ENOUGH FOR CBS<br><br>
On July 19, independent feminist folksinger Ani DiFranco was scheduled to
make her second appearance on Late Night with David Letterman. But, as
the Washington Post reported, producers canceled DiFranco's performance
when she insisted on singing &quot;Subdivision,&quot; a song about
American racism and suburban &quot;white flight&quot; that begins:
<br><br>
&nbsp;<br><br>
<i>&quot;White people are so scared of black people<br>
</i><br>
<i>they bulldoze out to the country<br>
</i><br>
<i>and put up houses on little loop-dee-loop streets<br>
</i><br>
<i>And while America gets its heart cut <br>
</i><br>
<i>right out of its chest<br>
</i><br>
<i>the Berlin wall still runs down Main Street<br>
</i><br>
<i>separating east side from west&quot;<br>
</i><br>
&nbsp;<br><br>
DiFranco's song connects the dots between social segregation and mindless
consumerism (&quot;we're led by denial like lambs to the slaughter/
serving empires of style and carbonated sugar water&quot;), and ends by
daring each individual to take responsibility for, and overcome, social
injustice:<br><br>
<i>&nbsp;&quot;I'm wondering what it will take<br>
</i><br>
<i>&nbsp;for my country to rise<br>
</i><br>
<i>&nbsp;first we admit our mistakes<br>
</i><br>
<i>&nbsp;and then we open our eyes<br>
</i><br>
<i>&nbsp;or nature succumbs to one last dumb decision<br>
</i><br>
<i>&nbsp;and America the beautiful<br>
</i><br>
<i>&nbsp;is just one big subdivision&quot;<br>
</i><br>
&nbsp;<br><br>
Not the sort of message commonly heard on network TV-- and CBS seemed to
want to keep it that way. <br><br>
&nbsp;<br><br>
Days before her scheduled appearance, Letterman's producers told DiFranco
that &quot;Subdivision&quot; wasn't &quot;up-tempo&quot; enough, and
demanded she sing a more =93upbeat=94 song, &quot;Heartbreak Even,&quot;
instead. =93Subdivision=94 was not rejected because of its subject matter,
the producers told the Post, it's just that the love song about a stalled
relationship was &quot;preferable musically.&quot; When DiFranco refused
to make the switch, Letterman replaced her with another band.<br><br>
&nbsp;<br><br>
&quot;Subdivision&quot; is one of the most talked-about tracks on
Reveling and Reckoning, the latest of fourteen albums the 30-year-old
musician has released on her own independent label, Righteous Babe
Records. For years, DiFranco has been pursued by many major labels but
has rejected them all. A statement on the Righteous Babe web site
explained to fans why she wouldn't simply accommodate Letterman's people:
&quot;As a matter of principle and a privilege of her hard-earned
independence, Ani does not perform songs on demand... Faced with a choice
between playing something 'upbeat' yet apolitical or not playing at all,
Ani chose the latter.&quot;<br><br>
&nbsp;<br><br>
It's no surprise that corporate media prefer the homogenous drumbeat of
the status quo over art that is politically challenging and unique. It=92s
worth noting that if DiFranco were signed to a corporate label where
profits and exposure are valued more than principle, it's doubtful the
folksinger would have been allowed to bow out of a major TV gig simply
because she'd prefer to sing a harder-hitting song.<br><br>
&nbsp;<br><br>
FEMINIST RAP TOO &quot;INDECENT&quot; FOR THE FCC<br><br>
Self-censorship like the sort practiced by Letterman's producers pales in
comparison to the broader-based suppression of speech by government
&quot;indecency standards,&quot; an unintended consequence of which is
the stifling of voices attempting to critique indecency.<br><br>
&nbsp;<br><br>
At a party sponsored by Puff Daddy, feminist rap artist Sarah Jones
finally got fed up. =93I was standing there like some video ho, singing
along to =91bitches ain=92t shit but hoes and tricks,=92=94 she told AlterNe=
t=92s
Sara Riscol. =93I thought, Something has gone awry. This is not me, you
know, I disagree!=94 <br><br>
&nbsp;<br><br>
So instead of singing along to degrading lyrics, she started rapping
about them. The result is &quot;Your Revolution (will not happen between
these thighs),&quot; a fierce, feminist reinterpretation of the famous
poem &quot;The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.&quot; Jones' directly
references and renounces the rhymes of some of hip-hop's most famous
stars, including L.L. Cool J, the Notorious B.I.G., Foxy Brown and
others:&nbsp; <br><br>
&nbsp;<br><br>
<i>&quot;Your revolution will not happen between these thighs... <br>
</i><br>
<i>&nbsp;Your revolution will not find me in the back seat of a jeep
<br>
</i><br>
<i>&nbsp;with L.L. hard as hell, you know<br>
</i><br>
<i>&nbsp;doing it and doing and doing it well,you know...<br>
</i><br>
<i>&nbsp;Your revolution will not be you smacking it up, flipping it or
rubbing it down<br>
</i><br>
<i>&nbsp;nor will it take you downtown, or humping around<br>
</i><br>
<i>&nbsp;Your revolution will not have me singing Ain't no nigger like
the one I got<br>
</i><br>
<i>&nbsp;Your revolution will not be you sending me for no drip drip V.D.
shot... <br>
</i><br>
<i>&nbsp;or me giving up my behind just so I can get signed <br>
</i><br>
<i>&nbsp;and maybe have somebody else write my rhymes...<br>
</i><br>
<i>&nbsp;Because the real revolution <br>
</i><br>
<i>&nbsp;That's right, I said the real revolution...<br>
</i><br>
<i>&nbsp;When it finally comes, it's gonna be real=94<br>
</i><br>
&nbsp;<br><br>
The lyrics Jones refers to in &quot;Your Revolution&quot; come from some
of the most well-known rap songs ever played on MTV and over the
commercial airwaves, most of which have never garnered a peep of protest
from the FCC. But as the Village Voice's Chisun Lee and AlterNet's Lara
Riscol reported, when Portland, Oregon's community radio station KBOO
played &quot;Your Revolution,&quot; the FCC slapped them with a $7,000
fine for violating FCC indecency standards. <br><br>
&nbsp;<br><br>
Come again?<br><br>
&nbsp;<br><br>
In its ruling, the FCC said Jones' attack on hip hop misogyny contained
&quot;unmistakable patently offensive sexual references&quot; that
&quot;appear to be designed to pander and shock.&quot; KBOO's assertion
that the song is &quot;a feminist attack on male attempts to equate
political 'revolution' with promiscuous sex&quot; and &quot;as such, is
not indecent&quot; did not impress the FCC. In keeping with a long
history of radio censorship, the FCC stated that though &quot;The
contemporary social commentary in 'Your Revolution' is a relevant
contextual consideration,&quot; when it comes down to it political
context is irrelevant: &quot;the Commission has rejected an approach to
indecency that would hold that material is not per se indecent if the
material has merit.&quot; <br><br>
&nbsp;<br><br>
Two weeks after punishing KBOO, the FCC doled out another $7,000
indecency fine; this time to Colorado Springs' commercial station KKMG
for&nbsp; playing an edited version of the Eminem hit &quot;The Real Slim
Shady&quot; -- even though KKMG bleeped out or removed expletives before
the song aired. <br><br>
&nbsp;<br><br>
Government regulation of content it deems offensive is a dubious
practice, as Jones' case illustrates. When a feminist hip-hop artist
presents a challenging, progressive response to exploitative music only
to find her own manifesto derided by the FCC as &quot;patently
offensive&quot;--and when the commission places her political critique in
the same category as music that glorifies violent sexism and homophobia
by artists like Eminem--it is clear how ill-suited the FCC is to judge
indecency.<br><br>
&nbsp;<br><br>
Rather than acting as arbitrary arbiters of &quot;indecency,&quot; the
FCC's time and energy would be far better spent regulating ownership,
cross-holdings, hiring and promotions, and public-use in the media
industry. The rapid pace of media mergers has a far more wide-ranging
impact on media than do any decency standards: the larger media
conglomerates becomes, the more prone they are to promote offensive yet
lucrative media personalities from lewd and scatalogical morning shock
jocks to musical provocateurs like Eminem, who attract the young male
demographic demanded by advertisers. Yet the FCC's interest in regulating
corporate control of the public airwaves seems to be at an all-time low.
FCC chair Michael Powell has advocated a deregulatory strategy that would
likely remove the remaining legal limits on media consolidation.
<br><br>
&nbsp;<br><br>
By penalizing KBOO, the government is punishing an attempt to
respond&nbsp; to offensive speech with more speech.&nbsp; Sarah Jones'
critique is likely to be a more effective response than censorship to
violent and misogynist lyrics like Eminem's--but if the FCC fails to
uphold its mandate of maintaining a diversity of voices on the public
airwaves, there will be fewer and fewer places where such a critique is
likely to be heard.<br><br>
Bio: Jennifer L. Pozner once sang (incredibly off-key) on stage with Ani
DiFranco. For a FAIR action alert by Peter Hart with FCC contact
information:
<a href=3D"http://www.fair.org/activism/fcc-decency.html" eudora=3D"autourl"=
>www.fair.org/activism/fcc-decency.html</a>.
To hear Ani DiFranco sing &quot;Subdivision&quot; live on Democracy Now!:
<a href=3D"http://www.webactive.com/pacifica/demnow/dn20010504.html" eudora=
=3D"autourl">www.webactive.com/pacifica/demnow/dn20010504.html</a>.
To hear &quot;Your Revolution&quot;:
<a href=3D"http://www.airbubble.com/your_revolution.html">www.airbubble.com/=
your_revolution.html</a>.
<br><br>
&nbsp;<br><br>
<br>
<br>
<b>Do You Yahoo!?</b><br>
<a href=3D"$rd_url/welcome/?http://taxes.yahoo.com/">Yahoo! Tax Center</a>
- online filing with TurboTax </blockquote></html>

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