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First Amendment Flag-Waver Lowers Boom

One of the broadcast industry's staunchest First Amendment defenders, Bill O'Shaughnessy, President of WVOX(AM)-WRTL(FM) New Rochelle, N.Y., has decided to institute a seven-second delay on station broadcasts, saying the danger from the FCC's profanity and indecency crackdown is too clear and present to do otherwise.

"I've been immensely proud that our community radio stations have "flown without a net," for almost 30 years, said O'Shaughnessy Monday, but he made it clear those days are over, at least for now.

Only a week ago, O'Shaughnessy was discussing the indecency issue with National Association of Broadcasters President David Rehr.

"Phil Reisman, the star feature columnist of Gannett, once wrote: 'WVOX has never put a condom on its microphone,' " said O'Shaughnessy adding, resignedly, a new postscript. "I'm heading for the drug store."

Calling these "desperate and dangerous times," O'Shaugnnessy also delivered a stern warning to his staff along with the announcement, saying he would institute a 24-hour monitoring system and fire anyone who lets a "profanity or vulgarity" slip through.

The full text of the memo follows.

June 26, 2006

To:    All On-Air Show Hosts, Producers and Board Operators

From: William O‘Shaughnessy

As you know, I’ve devoted a major part of my professional life to Free Speech issues and the First Amendment.

And, as you also know, these are desperate and dangerous times for free expression and creativity. 

Congress has rolled over on this fundamental issue.  And the Commission has, as you also know, moved in with draconian fines for any Violation.

So, from this moment forward, you are put on Notice that we will countenance no swearing … no vulgarity … and no utterance which is offensive to our audience or in violation of our own established high standards.

We have established a 24-hour Monitoring System to ensure compliance.

And, I very much dislike making threats, but I have to tell you, in no uncertain terms, that anyone who utters a profanity or a vulgarity over these airwaves will never work again in commercial radio, if I have anything to do with it.

We are working with the New York State Broadcasters Association, the National Association of Broadcasters and with various First Amendment lawyers and scholars on this matter. 

But, for now, you are warned to be very careful about what you say in front of the microphone at all times.
I am confident you will take this Warning to heart.

These two radio stations are too important to too many communities and to too many deserving and underserved listener groups to be put in danger by any verbal indecency or obscenity.