Tuesday, November 21, 2006

OR Fox Affiliates Pressure Murdoch to Murder "If I Did It"

What an interesting thing happened today: people across this great land, both in and out of TV executive offices, said, "this OJ thing is just too much, even for me" and rejected it. Flat out said no before it could air. That it was a Fox network show, and that Rupert Murdoch of all people expressed a sense of taste and concern for the well-being of society (as well as seeing the writing on the wall sponsorship wise), makes it all the more sweeter. Informal cultural norms have, for once, taken over in American popular society, and we can all celebrate just a little: we're not ready for a creepy snuff-styled thriller-as-hypothetical-documentary.

As I said, Murdoch eventually killed the show, the book, the appearances, and any "If I Did It" trinkery or Burger King tie-ins. But as Oregon Media Insiders reported this afternoon, he was being pushed from all directions--including his own affiliates:
FOX 12 Oregon has decided not to air an upcoming two-part special featuring O.J. Simpson previously scheduled to air on Nov. 27 and 29. ...
After careful consideration, FOX 12 Oregon has decided that the programming does not serve the public interest and will be airing encore episodes of "The Simpsons."
All four of Meredith's Fox affiliates withdrew their support, in fact, as did KMVU in Medford. So while Fox in Portland usually gets an unceasing serving of crapola from me, they deserve a lot of credit for bucking the big man at first, and making a decision of ethics and taste that we should be requiring of our broadcasters more often.

Let's not gloss over that last point: you and I have a right to demand this kind of self-censorship from our broadcasters. They operate under the good graces of the public, using airwaves that belong to the common. And as such, they operate licenses that require their service to the public interest:
The obligation to serve the public interest is integral to the "trusteeship" model of broadcasting--the philosophical foundation upon which broadcasters are expected to operate. The trusteeship paradigm is used to justify government regulation of broadcasting. It maintains that the electromagnetic spectrum is a limited resource belonging to the public, and only those most capable of serving the public interest are entrusted with a broadcast license. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the government body responsible for determining whether or not applicants for broadcast license meet the requirements to obtain them and for further regulation of those to whom licenses have been granted.
Of course, no one wants a federal government watchdog overlooking programming decisions, which is why it is imperative that we fill the gap that government cannot, and demand with regularity that our broadcasters take more initiative such as Murdoch did today, and say "we will not air this, because it is beneath our standards." And if they will not, we shall find broadcasters who will.

This is just step 25, of the 6,500-step process in demanding our rights back as a people and as a unit of civic advancement. Richard Dreyfuss, who is actually studying civics at Oxford (I'm not kidding), has begun to speak out on the need to grab hold of our media institutions and shake them until they do what we want. He was on Bill Maher's show on HBO this past weekend, and while he sucked all of the funny right out of the room with his extended monologues, he was certainly right on with his analysis.

Call up Fox 12 or Fox 26. Tell them, good going--thanks for looking out for us. We want you to do more. We watch the crap you put on now, because many of us can't get up, and we've lost the remote. It's not a sign of respect. But if you do better, we won't ask for so much medicine.