An interesting media-related story that played out in the United States was the sacking of radio host Don Imus by CBS and cable television network MSNBC last April 12. The move followed an uproar over Imus calling the Rutgers University women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hos,” considered a racial and sexual insult.
CBS and MNBC had been under pressure from black leaders and women’s groups, something that reports say became a national movement to remove Imus from the air. But the final straw was apparently the decision of advertisers to abandon Imus’ program.CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves had this interesting take:
“This is about a lot more than Imus. As has been widely pointed out, Imus has been visited by presidents, senators, important authors and journalists from across the political spectrum. He has flourished in a culture that permits a certain level of objectionable expression that hurts and demeans a wide range of people. In taking him off the air, I believe we take an important and necessary step not just in solving a unique problem, but in changing that culture, which extends far beyond the walls of our company.”
Imus is a shock jock, who became popular because of the venom he spews on air. Which reminds me of the kind of commentators now dominating Cebu’s air lanes. They become popular because listeners nowadays seem to have embraced the culture that, Moonves says, “permits a certain level of objectionable expression that hurts and demeans a wide range of people.”
How often have we heard radio program hosts call the subjects of their commentaries “hanggaw” or “buang”? Just the other day, I heard this commentator say about a police officer he was criticizing: “maayo ning duklon.” These people have no substance, and yet their personal attacks seemed to have endeared them to some listeners.
One lesson in the Imus case is that it pays to have vigilant groups that exert pressure on radio stations or the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas to act on the matter. Advertisers also play an important role (that includes, of course, politicians who hire these erring broadcasters as their hired guns).
The situation will deteriorate further if the “shock jock” culture is allowed to flourish.
–-Candido O. Wenceslao, April 14, 2007