The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday October 18th

Banning Songs Is Just Simply Bad Business

Lennon says, "Imagine all the people living life in peace." Correct me if I'm wrong here, but that would be good, right?

Stevens goes even further with his emotions, saying, "Why must we go on hating/Why can't we live in bliss?" Living in bliss ... hmmm. I could see where that would be a problem.

Now, some may say I'm a dreamer (to steal another line from Lennon), but I can't be the only one who finds solace in these beautifully crafted works of art -- I would even say music is a form of healing.

Apparently, however, some other folks don't think so -- Clear Channel Communications for one.

And it's not just these songs but other "shocking" hits like Chapel Hill's own rebel James Taylor's "Fire and Rain," The Bangles' "Walk like an Egyptian," Elton John's "Benny and the Jets" and a slew of other conspirators.

After the attacks two weeks ago, the media industry has re-examined its materials -- and in a sense begun a form of unimposed protective censorship.

Movie premieres depicting war have been postponed, media attacks on President Bush have ceased, and some songs have been deemed inappropriate for the airways.

Leading the way is Clear Channel Communications, owner of 1,200 stations nationwide and regarded as one of the most ruthless competitors in the nationwide radio market. The company owns stations in 247 of the nation's 250 largest radio markets, including Raleigh's own WDCG-FM 105.1, WRDU-FM 106.1 and WTRG-FM 100.7.

Last week Clear Channel compiled a list of songs that it feels might be offensive and recommended its stations not play them -- not a "ban" per se, but it sure seems like a ban.

Clear Channel is notorious for bullying its competitors and controlling its programming. Several anti-trust suits filed across the country have pointed out that Clear Channel often uses its massive market influence to make or break songs and artists and that it has undue influence over its stations' programming.

However, according to a company statement, it claims differently. "Clear Channel believes that radio is a local medium. It is up to every radio station program director and general manager to understand their market, listen to their listeners and guide their station's music selections according to local sensitivities."

But, to quote another quasi-banned song, The Beastie Boys' "Sabotage," "You're scheming on a thing/That's sabotage."

Long story short, Clear Channel has begun what will surely be a long road ahead for self-imposed censorship in the United States. When the government begins the censoring process, hasta luego, mis amigos.

Back to the music. "Walk Like an Egyptian" -- what did '80s chick bands with strap-on keyboards have to do with terrorism?

I'm not sure if Americans really are reminded of the attacks when they say, "Ay oh whey oh, ay oh whey oh."

The same may hold true for Oingo Boingo, Pat Benatar, Phil Collins and the sneaky gunmen on the grassy knoll.

So, what's my point here.

Our nation must be careful that in the defense of our democratic ideologies abroad not to lose sight of the very freedoms we value.

I can respect the government for keeping secret some sensitive military information (troop movements, deployments,), but that's about it. I suppose that makes me one of the flaming American Civil Liberties Union members who caused the attacks two weeks ago, according to Jerry Falwell.

Banning songs isn't necessarily a matter of national security -- which is exactly why the Federal Communications Commission hasn't issued a list of its own (good job guys!). It is a private company's right to control their programming, but we should be wary of their power to influence expression in this emotional time through censorship.

I agree with REM when it says "It's the End of the World as We Know It," but I also still hold Louis Armstrong close to my heart, and think to myself "What a Wonderful World." You won't hear either of these songs on Clear Channel Stations.

Josh Baylin can reached at jbaylin@email.unc.edu.

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