On Censorship

There's been a minor fracas, a set-to, a dust up, even a hubbub over which radio station is going to broadcast emergency information in the event of a hurricane here in south Florida. The Broward County Commission was considering not renewing the deal that have with AM 610 because it's the local home for Rush Limbaugh. The County Commissioner leading the charge to detach the Emergency Information, Stacy Ritter, was quite open about it.

"They have every right to speak, but we don't have to do business with them," she said.

Now, let's get something straight right up front. The citizens of south Florida were not going to be denied information if this contract went to another radio station. There are tons of radio stations down here, and most of them could do the job adequately, and will be, in the event of a hurricane. So this isn't censorship, even if we stretch the definition to unreasonable proportions.

But that didn't stop the charges from flying:
But Commissioner John Rodstrom, a one-time young Republican leader who later became a Democrat, said the county should not politicize emergency management.

"If we are going to start censoring what people write in the paper or speak on the radio or television, that's a slippery slope," Rodstrom said. "This is necessary. It's something we need to do for emergency response."

Limbaugh himself didn't even go that far--he called it "politicizing the delivery of emergency news," which is less of a stretch. It's really just politicizing the choice of who gets to be the official voice of that news, and as long as the news is getting out effectively, why not let the politics of the decision makers be a factor in the choice?

It turns out that in this case, the staff had reason to recommend WIOD over the other local stations:
County communications administrators recommended WIOD over two other stations interested in the deal.

They said WIOD has a strong signal, sister FM stations that simulcast news during emergencies and was willing to guarantee live coverage.
No word in the article if other local radio stations were able to willing to match the deal, but it wouldn't surprise me if WIOD was the most qualified to get the job done, and that being the case, they should keep the contract, and it looks like they will.

Besides, it's not like the other local stations won't be broadcasting emergency information in the event of another storm. If my memory serves, AM 940, the local progressive station, never went off the air during Hurricane Wilma. That's the station I listened to when I was looking for news.

But I started this post by talking about how some politicians are quick to throw the word censorship around when it isn't remotely applicable. Broward County wasn't going to censor either WIOD or Rush Limbaugh by giving the contract to another station. Censoring them would have involved having a kill button on their broadcast, or jamming the WIOD signal when Limbaugh's show was on. All the Broward County Commission was talking about doing was giving the contract to another station--Limbaugh's show wouldn't have been affected in the slightest.

The word gets thrown out there because it's a boogeyman, and because much of the time (as in this situation), the press doesn't note that it's not censorship. In other words, it works, so it'll keep getting used.

Politicization is another matter--Limbaugh was right (and damn, did that hurt to type) in that this was a political decision being made. But Rush Limbaugh complaining about a decision being political borders on the surreal. If there were ever a situation where he doesn't have room to talk, this is it.

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