Last week’s Mountain Stage had some conspicuous “bleeps,” or tones that cover up language that may be interpreted as offensive or obscene. The first happened in Priscilla Ahn’s “The Boob Song,” and the other in Hayes Carll’s character piece “She Left Me for Jesus.”
We received responses from some who were offended by the nature of the content and others who were displeased with our decision to bleep the content. We receive letters like these often and we respond to each accordingly. Now that we have an access to the blogoshpere, we have the avenue to discuss the decisions in more detail.
We don’t want to offend you with content or censorship. Mountain Stage, like any radio or television show, is susceptible to the rules and regulations of the Federal Communications Commission, FCC. It is not just you we must consider but our distributor (NPR) and our over 100 affiliate stations that carry Mountain Stage.
If a program elicits complaints of offensive language it could in turn bring on an FCC inquiry and possibly a costly lawsuit. CBS Corporation had the financial stability to appeal their recent indecency suit, and just last month had their fine overturned. Especially in the world of public funded radio, however, most stations couldn’t afford to do battle in a federal court.
When one listener wrote that he thought the “bleep” was in poor taste, Mountain Stage host and artistic director Larry Groce made it clear in his response that, first and foremost, we hate to censor any artist. However we must consider the stations that carry the show and the distributor that allows them to do so. In this case, a “bleep,” however undesirable, was an alternative to cutting the songs entirely from the broadcast.
The goal of any artist we welcome to Mountain Stage is to connect with you. Sometimes that connection may alienate the ears of another. At Mountain Stage we don’t want to present a sanitized or homogenized version of our guest artists but we must adhere to broadcast rules. The content of our shows is as vast and varied as the stylistic boundaries. Gospel and religious songs that have been performed on the show have occasionally garnered a response from those offended by the material and its content.
While we certainly do not always agree with the opinions or beliefs of guests, we always stand by them as artists and believe in their creative freedom. We will follow the rules while allowing the artists an opportunity they may not receive elsewhere.
If you haven't heard the bleeps in question, head over to NPR.org/mountainstage and check them out for yourself. We hope you understand and we are interested in your thoughts on the subject. Please sign-up here and share them with us in the comments section below.