WGBH Journal; FCC Ban On Words, New England Telephone Regulation, Building Mural Painter
Good afternoon and welcome. This is GBH journaling on Carol's show. On our show today we'll hear about a media case which the Supreme Court has agreed to. You know we'll find out about new regulations for the New England telephone company. We'll have an interview with an artist who paints murals on the exterior of buildings and to clothes. Commentator Louis lines will take a look at the noose.
As it stands now there are seven words which cannot be used on the air. The words were determined by the Federal Communications Commission and I considered to be potentially offensive to a listening audience. The Supreme Court last week agreed to review this issue and to determine if and when certain words could be banned from the radio and TV to help clarify the issues surrounding the case. John Frieden by put together this report.
As a conservative person on the issue of journalistic responsibility you know I would I would like the government in and all of its faces to stay away from my NEWSROOM.
A lot of these words were heard.
Four years ago Pacifica Foundation's radio station in New York aired comedian George Carlin's recorded monologue dirty words. The piece which aired during the lunch hour begins with Carlin saying that he'd been thinking about words that definitely couldn't be said of the public airwaves. And then he proceeds to say them in the background Carlin's audience laughed joyously but unfortunately for WBA II in the foreground the Federal Communications Commission did not in response to an official complaint filed by a parent who heard the broadcast while driving his child home from school. The FCC produced a list of seven specific words that from then on were to be banned from the public airwaves. Civil libertarians immediately accuse the FCC of censorship and although the commission has always had the right to regulate the airways until the B.A. II case no moves had been made to censor any specific dialogue. This is because most broadcasters subscribe to the National Association of broadcasting which specifically states profanity will not be used over the air. After four years and much discussion the case has been granted a hearing by the Supreme Court which will ultimately decide how well the FCC ban sits in terms of the First Amendment. The court will be grappling with two main issues. First are the words in question indecent especially if broadcast during hours that children are likely to listen. And second is the broadcast media so different from print that indecency should be prohibited when unsupervised children may be listening. Although a U.S. District Court of Appeals in Washington has already ruled the ban has begun unconstitutional. The FCC has appealed the argument on the grounds that a broadcaster unlike the owner of an adult bookstore or theater can't rely on parents to keep their children away from offensive material. In reply lawyers for the Pacifica Foundation have said that the net result of the FCC order will be to limit the adult populations listening in viewing choices to those programs only fit for children. In Boston I spoke to two broadcast and one print journalist Judy store assistant news director for the 10 o'clock news here at WGBH was asked if she thinks there's a trend to create a double standard between print and broadcast media.
Well there always has been. To a certain extent you probably know the broadcast industry is regulated by the FCC and newspapers aren't theory. Everyone can presumably start up a newspaper. There are no limits on that but that the laws of physics will limit how many television stations or radio stations can exist. Therefore the airwaves belong to the public and the government can regulate it. The problem is of course that the First Amendment applies to both newspapers and broadcasting. Freedom of speech and where the line is drawn is very. It's important to draw it much more tightly for broadcasting than for newspapers because we're centrally in the same business of communication to make the rules stricter for broadcasting than for newspapers. Seems to me to be a double standard in a trend that is very unfortunate and probably dangerous. Once you start drawing up a list of words it cannot be used the list can always be added to and it can become as you suggested very political. It can become a means by which if a television reporter cannot call the president a Jughead if he wants to if you know fantasy can range anywhere if that word is added to the list it becomes a means a tool of possible repression.
Bill Aber news director at WBEZ television was also asked his opinion.
I think things can be cooler in print than they are in broadcasting. I would understand the argument of someone saying that a violent word or a sexual word appearing in print is somehow less assaulting than perhaps hearing that word come blasting out of the speaker of your television set I would understand that argument. And in terms of general programming in entertainment and that kind of thing I as a parent or as a citizen might agree with that concept. As a journalist however. You know our responsibility always has to be directed more toward portraying the reality of a situation and not necessarily just the situation as we would like it to be or making it more comfortable. And while it does not come up every day it probably comes up three times a year where we find ourselves in a situation where a particularly vile or violent word is is used in a discussion takes takes place. I still like the idea of that being my call as an editor as a news manager and I'm not ever prepared to turn over to the government or to the courts or anyone outside journalism.
My editorial responsibility bringing the situation closer to home. I spoke with veteran newspaper man Charlie Whipple of the Boston Globe. We talked about the recent Chelsea School District controversy which involved banning a book of poems written by high school students for high school students. One point in particular which we discussed involves a fairly graphic account of a 15 year old's view of herself as a woman in contemporary society.
By the way he and others did prove they were. I'm so blue because it was relevant and I don't know of many cases where you think it would have been a lot of protests and then the FCC you're going to court but I don't see other general public good judgment really like that unless they have access to the home because always there are certain issues.
Yes there was a judge but I think the right things when to save and save them in the right way. There are cases in the child's home as an example.
How the Supreme Court will rule on the WBA II case is still uncertain. But I asked Judy storey if she had any predictions.
I don't know. The Supreme Court is considered unpredictable ways this court is not an easy one to guess.
But although it is not clear how the specific case will run. One thing is certain the problems involved in the AI case are not unique. Just last week the Tennessee Board of Education requested that the Public Broadcasting Service in Washington adopt a language usage code that would ensure programs contain language not offensive to large segments of the public television audience. The board cited that an increase in nudity and profanity in recent months has brought about this decision and response. Lawrence Grossman president of PBS said that the service was committed to tasteful national programming but also mily individual stations must decide what to air for GBH Journal.
The New England telephone company will soon have some new regulations in practice a fact which will undoubtedly affect us all for in our present age we are so dependent on the telephone.
We take most regulations for granted. Find out more about the coming changes in this report from Leslie clipper.
New regulations of concern to telephone consumers have recently been negotiated by New England telephone in the Department of Public Utilities. The new regulations now eliminate the phone company's current practice of requiring a security deposit from all new customers. These regulations also provide more lenient terminations practices for the elderly. Both regulations mean that pasty consumers will now have the same basic rights they have previously enjoyed with both the gas and electric companies. A consumer group instrumental in helping to bring about these changes is the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group for mass power. Stephen Morgan spokesperson for mass perc explains the outcome of the two and one half year struggle.
Well reform it's long overdue. Gas and Electric companies haven't had to put down deposit there is no reason that the phone company could give as to why deposit should be required of customers who do not have a past practice of nonpayment and discontinuous with a new deposit is perhaps the greatest single achievement reward to customers who deserved all along and I think something around 80 percent of customers who now have deposits down will get them back in the next couple of months after March and we're happy that that's happened and we've had allegations from within the phone company by the way that a lot of our deposit money was put into high yield accounts to bring back even more interest than was given back to the customer a year or two years later when it was returned so that we felt that there was been some. Legitimate if not illegal use of deposits in the past and there's been no justification for the large majority of deposits required. And it's an unfair burden sometimes and a prohibitive burden on poor and elderly and even students so that they can't even get phones.
John counter from the New England telephone response to Morgan's allegations principally we're talking about the residents deposits as opposed to business deposits. Residence deposits in toto are a very very very insignificant amount of money in terms of total dollars. They held on less than 4 percent of our customs. Here and when a company residence customs. That money. Is placed into the general funds of the corporation. And the general funds of the corporation. I used to do just what mass production has to pay the bills. And we do not. Put these dollars into any high yield accounts we have built. Obviously they were accounted for and when and if a customer's deposit is returned returned with interest.
The new regulations regarding telephone termination practices are very good news for the elderly. Stephen Morgan explains the regulations affecting the elderly.
No longer will the phone company be able to just cut off service to elderly customers without special precautions and which number one the DP you isn't specifically. Warned about it and given permission before the phone company can cut anyone off. Secondly the telephone company now must wait longer period of time and make more of an effort to contact customers between the time of the last warning and the time terminations. This is particularly helpful to elderly customers many of whom may be sick or away when they get the warning notice and by the time they get back there they may not have gotten another notice and they're cut off. And if someone's in the hospital when they return from the hospital find their service cut off it can be a very dangerous thing to happen to them. And of course finally the phone company must now give only customers who are sick. Up to three 30 day continuances with a doctor's permission with a doctor's certification of their will before service can be discontinued.
Although these new consumer rights are long overdue. Morgan feels they don't go far enough. Morgan says mass Perkel work for further improvements in the form of a more adequate grievance procedure and a listing of itemized expenses on the consumer's monthly telephone bill for GBH journalists Lesley clip or.
Various walls of rooms long hallways. But how about an outside of a large building. And how about a friend that really looks like a friend. Well there's a 50 by 85 feet that covers one whole side of the Boston architectural center on Newbury Street in downtown Boston. Reporter Vivian do catch up with the creator of this unusual vision artist Richard Haas.
The building is a very interesting one thousand 60s architectural school and it's. I think about seven stories tall. The exact measurements were something for the wall or something like sixty six feet high eight feet wide. And it would only be seen from the second story level. It has a very unusual symmetrical shape and that was also considered in the design. I felt it had a very kind of brutal. Fortress like exterior. And I try to consider something on that level and that process led me to the kind of 18th century cross-section cutaway that I arrived at which is really a dome cutaway as you would see it in an architect's drawing from the Mozart period or something and you see inside and you see stairways you see doors you see the rotunda and all these other things.
And this was a way of patching up a wall that by accident was not covered.
I'm not too sure about the accident in this case I think the intention of the people was that the building would become bigger at some point. And so this was the back wall it wasn't a terrible wall really I mean I've seen a lot worse that I could deal with but in some ways it was a very grand wall and that's what I really got off on. It was never intended to be seen that much and I think now it is.
How is this different from doing a painting for a gallery Do you feel that you're imposing your taste your concept on the public.
Well I think that brings in and a lot of questions about public art and its purpose and intention. And yes I mean it is different entirely from a gallery situation. I think that it restricts me but at the same time it allows me to do more while it allows me first of all to relate to an audience I would never have in a gallery. It restricts me in the sense that I think it has to work for a larger audience and many more circumstances than an exhibition or a painting that you know occurs in a more private space.
What are you doing architecturally. I mean don't you introduce styles that are not necessarily present or don't fit with the building in the style that's there then.
Initially the wall that I did in Soho for instance no really completed the building in that style. Each one that I've done since I think has tried to deal with a slightly different problem and I think the one that you're talk we're talking about mostly is the one in Boston where I really tried to bring a fantasy aspect into that building. But I'm still considering the building that it's placed on very carefully in the design. But then it's painting it's not architecture and I think that always has to be kept in mind. Therefore I'm allowed a license that maybe an architect isn't.
How is it different from doing your own canvas.
Well it really is quite close to that it is a painting that I submit to the. Sign painters The difference is I'm working in full scale. I have to work with their sensibility of color and I have to measure everything according to the wall and how it is executed.
Who rents the Crane who who chooses the paint is what's the process.
Well we choose the painters by submitting bids. Once I do the sketch for the final wall we'll submit it to two or three paint companies and they will submit a bid in the lowest bidder of course usually gets the project. Sometimes the lowest bidder doesn't get it if I don't feel that they can execute it.
And these are generally signed painters or is there now a specialty of mural painters around.
No there really isn't anything like that these are sign painters but they have incredible capacity to do execute these projects and that they can duplicate any art work scaled up where you are a regular canvas painter before. Well I have a multifaceted background I guess you could say I was an abstract painter for some 10 years. I was a print maker and still am a print maker and my print making involves architecture primarily and that has continued up to the present and then I'm also a painter of architectural subject matter and so is your interest in architecture What got you on to doing city. Yes I think it came directly out of my early prints of Soho casting and facades. And also other architectural Victorian and early 20th century American architectural facades.
This transcript is machine-generated and has not been corrected. It is likely there will be errors.
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- Supreme Court review of FCC ban on words, new New England Telephone regulations, building mural painter, Louis Lyons. Engineer: Garrison
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