Two weeks after the terrorist attacks on the East Coast, flags are back at full mast and America’s official period of mourning is over. Yet the entertainment sector is still under fire from critics who say the industry walked too clumsily along the fine line between sensitivity and censorship.
Clear Channel, a media conglomerate that operates more than 1,200 radio stations nationwide, bore the brunt of this attack. In the days following Sept. 11, public sensitivities ran high; radio stations gauged the tide of public sentiment and adjusted their playlists accordingly. But it was Clear Channel, which owns Santa Barbara’s KTYD and KISS stations, that was accused of crossing the censorship line.
A now infamous Clear Channel e-mail, allegedly sent out to all its affiliates, lists more than 160 songs containing “questionable lyrics” and suggests these songs not be played in light of the recent tragedy. The media was quick to pounce on a juicy tale of corporate censorship, but the reality was significantly more bland.
“The first time I saw the list was when it was published in the Santa Barbara News-Press,” said Keith Royer, operation manager for Clear Channel’s seven Santa Barbara stations. “I was getting people calling, outraged that we were censoring music, when in fact we weren’t, and I had no idea what they were talking about.”