11 September 2012

REMEMBERING 9/11: Clear Channel and the memorandum

It's hard to imagine that 11 years have gone by since the attacks on September 11 but here we are.

September 11th is that B.C./A.D. sort of marker in our timeline where we find ourselves saying, "Oh, right, that was before 9/11" or "That was after 9/11." I saw a lot of commentary this morning about children growing up in a post-9/11 world and how to discuss 9/11 in today's classrooms to a generation of kids who weren't even born when the United States was attacked, all of which, superficially-speaking, made me feel old.

There are plenty of writers who will be able to comment far more eloquently about 9/11 and there'll be plenty of bloggers writing about their personal experiences on that day along with everyone Tweeting and Facebooking about 9/11 as well (can't wait to see the epic 9/11 Fails on Failbook.com tomorrow).

As for me, let me remember 9/11 from a musical point of view. (After all, this is kinda the whole point of Pet Bear Sounds).

One of the most shocking things following 9/11 was the memorandum sent out by media giant Clear Channel Communications essentially banning songs that were deemed "questionable" following the attacks.

Well, I take that back. Clear Channel didn't "ban" the songs.

According to Snopes.com:
It's not unusual in a time of sadness and mourning such as the one following the September 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. that radio and television stations temporarily suspend the airing of material — programs, songs, advertisements — that might be considered insensitive or in bad taste. Just as an airline wouldn't show in-flight films featuring airplane crashes, especially after a particularly horrible airliner accident, so entertainment outlets generally opt to temporarily dispense with material dealing with death and disaster in the wake of terrible real-life events. So, many radio stations have recently invoked voluntary moratoriums on songs which refer to airplanes, crashes, violence, and death in their lyrics or titles.
Furthermore, according to a program director at Clear Channel: "This was not a mandate, nor was the list generated out of the corporate radio offices. It was a grassroots effort that was apparently circulated among program directors."

Fair enough. In retrospect - if Clear Channel are to be believed - it doesn't seem as insidious as it seemed in 2001. But keep in mind the perspective I was coming from: a young, liberal college kid studying poli-sci, working as the arts & entertainment editor for the university paper, interning and producing segments for a current events talk radio show at the local NPR affiliate. Also keep in mind that the Telecommunications Act of 1996 essentially deregulated everything in media so Clear Channel was gobbling up radio stations all over the country creating a broadcast monopoly. Gee, thanks for that one, Bill.

So, all that in mind, after a major attack on American soil, even the simple notion of this big, bad media giant sponsoring any sort of censorship - especially in a time of crisis - was frightening.

Eleven years later in this post-9/11 world it still is.

And that is something to remember on 9/11 that freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the freedom of the press are rights that we must fiercely fight for every single day.

Oh and, Clear Channel? For future reference it is actually okay to permanently ban any songs by 3 Doors Down, Alien Ant Farm, Godsmack, Limp Bizkit, and P.O.D. Thanks.

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