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Jeffrey Douglas Addresses Panel on Censorship

LOS ANGELES – Attorney Jeffrey Douglas, chairman of the Free Speech Coalition, was a panelist at the Beverly Hills Bar Association luncheon on censorship, the FCC and the Justice Dept., yesterday. The featured speaker was Sandra Tsing Loh, the commentator who was fired from National Public Radio’s flagship station for Southern California for inadvertently allowing an obscene word to be broadcast. Loh said that the incident has had a chilling affect on her former colleagues.

Loh also said she was surprised to be caught up in the nation’s indecency debate along with Howard Stern, Bubba the Love Sponge and Janet Jackson. Loh was fired from Santa Monica-based KCRW-FM after a technician failed to bleep an intentional use of the “F” word during a Feb. 29 radio commentary on knitting. “That I could get fired over this has everybody in a white-hot panic,” Loh told guests. “I think I’ve gotten more media attention than would merit for a person who works for $150 per week.”

Loh was offered her job back, but declined to resume “The Loh Life” on KCRW.

Other panelists offered a range of opinions on the indecency issue, which has prompted legal action by federal lawmakers.

Parents Television Council executive director Tim Winter largely blamed the FCC for failing to enforce its rules and clearly spell out what content is not acceptable to broadcast.

“I believe that frankly this case should not have gotten to the place where you (Loh) lost your job over it, but the station should have been warned for an indecency violation,” Winter said.

First Amendment attorney Stephen Rohde, a past president of the ACLU of Southern California, said he was worried that the FCC’s recent crackdown could lead to the stifling of political views.

“We cannot trivialize the threat that’s posed when you empower an arm of the government, in this case the FCC, to have powers over the ideas that are expressed,” Rohde said.

Part of the problem is vague wording of the legal definition of obscenity, said Jeffrey Douglas, chairman of the Free Speech Coalition and an attorney for members of the adult industry.

“There is no possible way that an artist or anyone else who is attempting to communicate can tell in advance (how) the material will be deemed by a jury based on local contemporary community standards,” Douglas said.

As vp standards and practices for Fox Cable Networks, Darlene Lieblich said the networks are largely protecting the public from words and images that would not raise an eyebrow in international markets.

“The atmosphere in the cable industry right now is (one of) great fear that we are going to be scrutinized and regulated,” Lieblich said.


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