Wednesday, October 8, 2008
NO AGE VS. CBS
In honor of the Obama T-shirt I just received from Moveon.org, the same one homeboy from Sub Pop noise rockers No Age attempted to rock on the Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson, I found this interesting piece on the Sub Pop website about how CBS tried to pull some bullshit and forbid guitarist Randy Randall from wearing the shirt during the group's performance, scheduled to air later this month. Strange, I thought they were totally for the big O after Katie Couric's painful interview with Sarah Palin... Ed.
Late last week our friends in No Age taped a performance on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, to air later this month, on October 27th. Between the band’s rehearsal and when this taping was to take place, No Age’s guitarist Randy Randall was asked to wear something other than the Obama t-shirt he had on (which you can see and admire in the associated photo here – he looks good, right??). The folks working at the show explained that due to the Equal Time Rule, allowing No Age to perform on TV in an Obama t-shirt would force them to allow similar, equal time for that other, elderly fellow who is running in the upcoming Presidential election. So, after a whole lot of wrestling with his conscience and conversation about the situation, Randy decided to go on with the show, and having hand-written the words “Free Health Care” on the inside of his t-shirt, performed wearing it inside-out.
We got an email from Randy last night and it’s clear that this experience is really not sitting well with him. You can and really should read his note below. And, below that, you can read a post from Arthur Magazine’s editor Jay Babcock about why it’s important for us all to pay attention to what the various artists in our lives have to say. Please take the time to do so!
As a brief side note, after reading through the info about this Equal Time Rule, it seems to cover actual appearances by political candidates (and has been broadened to include stuff like movies starring a political candidate – Reagan in Bedtime for Bonzo, for example). But, it’s tough to understand how that would apply to candidates’ likenesses on t-shirts as well. Had CBS allowed Randy to play a No Age song on TV in an Obama shirt, would they have then been obligated to book a band (or other guest?) who would agree to appear on national TV in a McCain shirt? If that’s the case, and while it’s totally fair and understandable for Randy to construe all of this as censorship, we can sympathize with CBS’s decision here. Think of the unbearably shitty bands they would be forced to book! And, Ted Nugent is SUPER BUSY these days.
More importantly, here’s Randy:
I apologize for mass email but I feel that it is important to get this out to as many people as possible. I have recently come under what can only be called extreme censorship. On Oct 2nd No Age was scheduled to perform on the Late Late show with Craig Ferguson, to be broadcast on CBS later this month. I felt it was important to voice my choice for presidential candidate, Barack Obama, seeing as the episode would air 8 days before election day. We rehearsed on the stage and were waiting to film our performance when I was told that I would not be able to wear my Barack Obama t shirt. I was shocked, it seemed like some kind of joke, especially coming from a show like the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, produced by David Letterman’s production company World Wide Pants. The representatives of CBS said that by wearing an Obama T-shirt I would be violating the FCC rule of equal time for all candidates. However there there is a doctrine of fairness that former President Ronald Reagan and current president George W Bush supported the repeal of in order to allow themselves more time in the media. Regardless, the Equal Time Rule clearly favors candidates with more financial support. Ralph Nader and Ron Paul are not seen nearly as much as Obama and McCain.
I had to look at what I was up against and with 5 minutes before we were supposed to shoot I had only a handful of options. I could either A) walk away from the show and decline from appearing on the show, or B) change my T-shirt. My first choice was A. However, after talking way past the 5 minute mark, Dean and I decided that it would be better to take advantage of the stage we had at our disposal. I decided to make an appeal for “Free Health Care” on my T-shirt seeing as I was unable to voice my support for Barack Obama. Access to affordable health care is an issue very near to my heart for many personal reasons and I am sure that many of you can relate. I have lost and stood by as many of my close family members have battled with terrible illnesses. I have myself gone through traumatic hospitalizations only to come out the other side alive but horribly in debt.
I encourage all of you to speak out about your political views and your feelings about the many issues that are up for discussion at this crucial time in American history. CBS and major media outlets DO NOT speak for me. I do not look to corporate media to inform my views on the issues. Together through our communities we can make a difference and make it a point to express our views in order to shape our world into a better place.
And, here’s Arthur ed. Jay Babcock’s response:
Who Cares What Musicians Think About Politics? They're Not Experts, They're Artists--Which Is Exactly Why We Should Listen.
Posted Tue Oct 7, 2008 4:11pm PDT by Jay Babcock in The ARTHUR Blog
Last week I got a call from Randy Randall, guitarist for Los Angeles rock duo No Age, who are currently on the Sub Pop record label. Randy was flustered, talking a mile-a-minute, about what had just gone down. The band had just finished performing a song for some sort of Craig Ferguson/CBS TV thing that was to be broadcast October 27--just over a week before the presidential election. Cameras were about to roll when suddently they were told by an on-set CBS underling that something needed to go: Randy's Obama t-shirt.
This wasn't because CBS wanted No Age to go topless. They're keeping that for the spring break special. No, this was because, the CBS person said, the Obama shirt was on-air editorializing--a possible violation of some FCC edict which this person claimed called for equal time to be given to opposing political viewpoints.
One problem: the last remnant of the so-called "Fairness Doctrine" was repealed in 1987; the repeal was upheld by court ruling in 1989.
Since then, corrollary rules of the Fairness Doctrine--the "personal attack" rule and the "political editorial" rule--have also been struck down in the courts, with the last court ruling (and subsequent FCC order) coming in 2000.
In short, there is no fairness rule. Randy's Obama shirt was perfectly broadcastable under every existing law.
But neither No Age nor their people at Sub Pop were aware of the Fairness Doctrine's long-ago demise, and took CBS at their word.
After much deliberation, Randy put on another shirt, which said "Free Health Care," the band played, and the show will, apparently, air.
Some of the slower folks out there may rejoin with, Well who the heck cares what rock musicians think about the election? They should just shut up and play their songs. Leave politics to the experts! On with the doggone show!
What experts are these people talking about? Experts on public policy like the Republican vice presidential candidate? Maybe Bill O'Reilly? Tom Friedman? Rush Limbaugh? Katie Couric? Whoopi Goldberg? All the other nattering goofheads on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, CNN and PBS--all of which are underwritten by corporate America, wealthy advertisers, upper-class endowments and the government itself?
The political situation in this country--heck, on this planet--is far too serious to leave it to these so-called experts, useful idiots and outright bought-and-paid-for whores to debate on our public airwaves.
What we need are other voices, the voices that humanity has always listened to in times of trouble: the voices of the visionaries, the poets, the authors, the ones with a longer view and a deeper sense of what's at stake, who can tell us more about what's going on and why, and perhaps bring us new metaphors, new ways of thinking, new ways of seeing, the situation we face. This country desperately needs to better understand what is happening to itself, and to imagine a better future. Well, artists work with imagination and observation - that is their field. It's long past time we let them back in to the discussion. And it's time to listen to what they're saying--and yes, to look at what they're wearing, too. Time is running out.
Jay Babcock is editor and publisher of Arthur, the free all ages counterculture magazine.