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Radio Air Waves Should Not Be Abused (By Rush Limbaugh)

March 2, 2012

For first-time readers to Caffeinated Politics (thanks for stopping on this site) let me state I have challenged both liberals and conservatives over abusing the public radio airwaves.  As a former radio broadcaster, and a lifetime radio listener I come to my point of view after thinking a great deal about this topic.

From the nights of falling to sleep with the radio in my ear as a teenager, to the medium allowing me a paycheck for a number of years, to now having radio presets in almost every room in the house and multiple layers in the car I can lay claim to one fact.  I love radio, and care deeply about it.

That is why I am so insulted by the words that were spewed by Rush Limbaugh over the airwaves this week in regards to contraceptives and a woman he termed “a slut”.

This blog has spoken to the topic of contraception, and the election that somehow has morphed into a cultural war.  There are plenty of places on this blog for a dose of politics, but this post is not going to be one of them.  I do not aim to challenge Limbaugh here on the merits, or not, of what he said.  No, this post is about something bigger than an election year issue.

This post is about the radio airwaves, and a slice of America that is being ripped away.

I have always connected with those who have either told stories or penned them about hearing a radio station far away from where they lived that made them think of large cities or broader horizons.  As I sit here thinking about this matter the image of Charlie Louvin comes to mind.

During the day as a boy Louvin would toil in the cotton fields with his family, but at night he would hear music from Nashville over the radio and wonder if there was a future for him singing a song.   We all know there indeed was a place for both him and his brother in the world far away from the farm.  The Louvin Brothers blasted their way to the Country Music Hall Of Fame.

The stories are countless of those who have looked to radio over the many, many decades for friendship and companionship.  Radio has been there late nights when the baby will not sleep, during morning drive time, at work for music and sports scores, and then catching up on news and weather in the evenings.

Even though television allows us an image, radio remains the most intimate medium.  It is the place where we get to know the announcer and hear the banter about his morning drive into the station, or insights into his life.  The effective radio broadcaster gives us glimpses of who he/she really is and that creates a bond between those on both sides of the radio dial.

But over at least the last decade there has been an erosion of civility on the airwaves.  It has taken place on both right-wing and left-wing stations as the announcers and hosts seem more interested in red meat tactics for political purposes than striving for high marks in broadcasting.   While there are still many stations that will not stoop to the level we witnessed this week with Rush Limbaugh, it remains unsettling to know that national standards are slipping, and no one seems willing to apply the brakes.

After the “slut” comment from Limbaugh the nation is talking about the political aspect of the remark, but I have heard almost nothing about the misuse of the public airwaves for this type of talk.   Personally insulting a woman by calling her  “a slut” and ” a prostitute”  on the public airwaves is a far cry from what the airwaves were designed for, and what most people turn the radio on to hear.

Once a week, every year of my life when I lived at home, Mom set the ironing board up in the dining room, turned the radio on, pressed clothes, and piled them to be stored away.  The station she might turn to depended on her mood and the time of day.  WAXX from Eau Claire, WTMB from Tomah, or WFHR from Wisconsin Rapids.  Later in the day she would often comment on the back-and-forth about this radio personality or what jokes were told or how someone had a flat tire on the way to work, etc.   It was not major news or life-altering announcements.  But then that is not why she made a choice to turn the radio on.  It is not why most people turn to radio day-after-day even now.

Somewhere along the way those who harvest radio licenses have created a mean-spirited and pitiful listening landscape where now the most base commentary can be heard, and the most pathetic hosts can reap huge profits.

Left out of the mix are those countless people who live in America, and want to turn the dial to something that will not offend.  Out there somewhere, in another context, is today’s unknown ‘Charlie Louvin’, who could not have found anything uplifting when hearing Limbaugh call a woman “a slut”.

The public owns the airwaves, not the ones who are granted a license.

When will the public demand accountability from those who misuse the airwaves?

5 Comments
  1. March 6, 2012 10:26 AM

    Skip,

    How much do you drink before deciding to comment on my blog?

    You DID NOT sit with your parents watching 60 Minutes and hear the “male host calling the female host ‘An ignorant slut’ at the introductory start of each segment.”

    That never happened on 60 Minutes, and what in your head allows you to think it ever did?

    There was a series of funny skits on SNL that used the line you mentioned when they did spin-off jokes about the program. That is—I think I need to clarify for you–not the REAL 60 Minutes.

  2. March 6, 2012 7:56 AM

    It’s Mr. Limbaugh’s show. Let him run it.

    I remember on 60 Minutes, Point Counter Point, the male host calling the female host ‘An ignorant slut’ at the introductory start of each segment.

    My parents would be sitting there and I’d be embarrassed that I heard that with them also watching 60 Minutes…I think I was in Jr. High or Grade school.

    Who was that host? Sandy Van Orkora? [sp]. Pretty racy stuff back then.

    skip.

  3. :Pepper permalink
    March 5, 2012 4:15 PM

    No- governments cannot censor the airwaves, but the public can. The proof is in the fact that we the public have finally had enough and are speaking out to his sponsors who are pulling out of his airwaves! Finally! Anyone who listens to Rush Limbaugh must be angry, unhappy, resentful people who are looking for someone to speak for themselves in a very angry, sorry way. He lies, he distorts, he inflames and he doesn’t deserve to be a spokesperson for the majority of Americans.

  4. Patrick permalink
    March 2, 2012 9:35 PM

    The ariwaves of your ideal past are mostly gone–the notable exception is, I think, NPR which still carries a very interesting line of shows despite its flawed politics. Limbaugh’s comments were too crude for my taste, that’s for sure, but so, too, is most of the “popular” music which denegrates women far more than the one man’s comments.

    This being said, the airwaves are public and Limbaugh’s audience is as large as it is. It is right that he and the rest on both sides get to have their say; government can’t be allowed to be our censor. Let people react as they will, but let that be the end of it. Government cannot impose or even regulate culture, and it would be monstrous if it were to try.

    Besides, the calming radio of those ideal days you remember is alive somewhere, streaming over the net. All is still good.

  5. Solly permalink
    March 2, 2012 1:28 PM

    One advertiser has pulled their ads. There’s an online petition to sign to all of them at http://campaigns.dailykos.com/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=81

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