Friday, January 12, 2007

Answering Those Listener E-Mails

I receive a surprising number of e-mails from our listeners each day. They write to compliment us on the show, to suggest future topics and guests, or to sign-up for the occasional free t-shirt. Some ask questions about NASCAR racing, and express their views on what's happening in the sport. I respond to most of those e-mails personally. Not all of them, but as many as I can within the boundaries of time and sanity.

Once in a while, I read an especially poignant e-mail on the show; one that broaches a new topic, or offers an especially interesting point of view. That was the case yesterday, when I spent a segment of the show responding to a pair of e-mails from David in Arizona and Mike in Florida.

David offered his opinion on the possibility of Richard Childress Racing losing its Cingular Wireless sponsorship, when the Cingular brand disappears as part of a merger with AT&T. He wrote, “Shouldn't it be mentioned that Winston did the exact same thing Nextel is doing now with other tobacco companies? The fact is, they banned all competition and the only loophole was "smokeless tobacco.” As much as I enjoy seeing the Cingular car, Bellsouth and AT&T merged. Why should Nextel bend their rules as a result?

The short answer, David, is that they shouldn’t. Cingular, BellSouth and AT&T are intimately familiar with the terms of Nextel’s current sponsorship contract, and how it affects them. If they choose to kill the Cingular brand, they will do so with the full knowledge that it means the end of their sponsorship with RCR. It’s their call, so to speak.

Mike, meanwhile, weighed-in with his opinion on what some people like to call "censorship" on Sirius NASCAR Radio. Before getting to his comments, however, a bit of background information may be helpful.

Despite not being subject to FCC supervision, Sirius Satellite Radio will air NASCAR race broadcasts this season with a brief audio delay, allowing "blue language" to be edited out, when necessary. There are two reasons for this. First both MRN and PRN include delays in their broadcasts, to protect their terrestrial affiliates from possible FCC sanctions. It would be extremely costly (not to mention unnecessary) for the networks to provide two different race feeds each weekend; one delayed and one not. Second, the powers-that-be here at Sirius want Sirius NASCAR Radio to be family friendly. While some parents don't mind their kids hearing the occasional "F-bomb," many others do. We want everyone to be able to listen to Sirius NASCAR Radio, without worrying about an inappropriate comment slipping through.

With that said, Mike In Florida wrote, "The problem with censoring...is that people are making decisions as to what I can and cannot hear. Last I checked, the constitution guarantees me freedom of speech. That overrides what the moral majority in this country deems as offensive. Last I checked, every Sirius radio has a channel changing knob. Someone saying, 'that language offends me, so no one should get to hear it' means the wants of the few are being catered to, instead of the wants of the many."

While Mike also said that he believes Sirius has the right to do anything it wants with its broadcasts, his concerns are valid, and shared by many in the satellite radio community.

Mike is correct when he says the United States Constitution guarantees freedom of speech. Doing what I do for a living, that’s a portion of the Constitution that I care very deeply about. There are limits to free speech, however, like the classic example of not being able to yell, “fire” in a crowded movie theatre.

Unfortunately, Mike confuses the right to say anything he wants with the right to say anything he wants on the radio. Those are two very different things. Our elected officials have passed very specific laws regulating what can be said on the public airwaves, and they have done so based on what they believe to be the wishes of the majority. If you disagree, I encourage you to take it up with your respective Congressman or Senator.

And finally, while the United State Constitution guarantees us the right to say whatever we want, it does not give us the right to HEAR whatever we want. Simply put, you do not have a constitutional right to hear someone swear on Sirius NASCAR Radio. It is OUR choice whether or not to broadcast those words, and we choose not to.

My e-mails tell me that for every person upset about "censorship," there are dozens who appreciate not being subjected to rough language during our talkshows and race broadcasts.

Thanks for writing in, everyone, and for listening.

2 comments:

  1. Lance from PA12:07 PM

    Dave,

    On the channels with the in-car audio, will the driver's audio be "censored"?

    Lance from PA

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  2. This is for everyone who didn't pay attention in civics class. The First Amendment prohibits the GOVERNMENT from infringing on an individual's freedom of speech. You can't be arrested and charged with a crime for speaking your mind (except obviously threats and the such). Sirius or NASCAR's decision to not allow what they deem to be bad language IS NOT covered by the First Amendment. Your rights are not being attacked.

    I have been a Sirius subscriber since three months after they started. I love that I can listen to people talking like adults on the radio. That's what I loved about Speedway from the beginning, the funniest moments involved some rather off-color discussion. I understand that NASCAR doesn't want to put their brand on that kind of stuff. I don't agree with them but I understand that companies have to be very politically correct especially with the current ultra right-wing politicians in charge.

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