January 05, 2009

FCC Chair Drops Internet Filter Plan -- And Words from the Smothers Brothers

Greetings. You may recall that a few months ago in Addams Family or Ned Flanders? The FCC Internet Censorship Battle Heats Up, I lambasted an FCC plan for government-mandated morality filtering (that is, censorship) of a proposed new free, nationwide wireless Internet service.

Now comes word that FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, the prime mover of the plan, has -- in an explicit attempt to get other FCC commissioners to sign on to the proposal -- dropped the filtering requirement.

Of course, this doesn't mean that if the proposed service is ever approved and built, that the firm or firms involved won't choose on their own to impose filtering. And the FCC could also once again decide to go down the incredibly inappropriate filtering/censorship route.

But it appears that Martin has at least come into sync with reality on this issue, for the moment anyway.

In the never ending battle between freedom of speech and those persons who would suppress the open flow of information, there have been many perhaps unlikely champions over the years.

Those of you old enough to remember the Smothers Brothers and their groundbreaking CBS television show around 40 (!) years ago, will probably recall the very public censorship battles the brothers fought against CBS (who ultimately pulled them from the air over these disputes, then lost a federal breach of contract lawsuit that the brothers subsequently filed).

Tommy Smothers, whose character persona (180 degrees from his real personality) was of the "dumb" brother, was actually the mover and shaker of the pair. In this very short (less than one minute) video clip, Tommy recently explained his concept of "Freedom to Hear" -- without which he suggests (and I agree) that Freedom of Speech can be rendered essentially impotent.

The Smothers Brothers' censorship battles took place in an era when the three major commercial U.S. television networks pretty much ruled the broadcast media landscape in this country -- seemingly a very different situation than today.

Yet censorship is still censorship, throughout the ages and across the broad span of technological innovations. The names and details vary, but the goals of those who would censor remain quite familiar, and the preservation of fundamental civil liberties will always require a continuing battle against censorship in its various forms and guises.

When it comes to freedom of speech and freedom to hear, the more things change, the more they really do stay the same.


Posted by Lauren at January 5, 2009 08:57 PM | Permalink
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