Saturday, May 28, 2005


You'd have hoped that by now the FCC would have started to calm down, over a year after the nipple-you-couldn't-actually-see was accidently-on-purpose revealed to a watching nation. But, of course, there's a dog, and it's got it's bone, and it ain't giving up. The knock-on effect of a government censor with the sensibilities of the maiden aunt of a Victorian country vicar is a bunch of broadcasters who'd rather axe their staff than risk having to defend them. Latest victim of the McCarthy-meets-Whitehouse age is Arthur Chi'en, of WCBS-TV. Having had a live report crashed by two gormfree corpses promoting the Opie and Anthony radio show, Chi'en turned after his slot was over and asked them why they didn't just fuck off. Only his channel hadn't taken him off air at that point. Chi'en apologised almost instantly, but it had no effect. Rather than complain to the satellite radio station who'd sent two synaptically-disconnected lard-shapes to try and disrupt his broadcast, or getting straight on the phone to the FCC to point out that it had been a slip caused by a reporter genuinely believing he was off air, and with every right to be fuming, WCBS-TV fired Chi'en. Most of New York think that W-CBS has made a mistake, reports the New York Times:

Some of his colleagues were dismayed. So were people whom he covered for Channel 2 and, before that, for NY1 News. Mr. Chi'en, a respected reporter, specialized in transportation news. Letters of protest have been sent to WCBS by representatives of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Transport Workers Union and the Straphangers Campaign. Most days, you can't get those groups to agree on a lunch order.

Nobody is about to nominate Mr. Chi'en for a Peabody Award. Punish him and even suspend him, say supporters like Tom Kelly, the transportation authority's communications director. But dismissal in this situation is "outrageous," Mr. Kelly said in a letter to WCBS.

WCBS, and its parent Viacom, though, seem to think this shabby, craven treatment of its own staff is somehow acceptable:

Mr. Chi'en is "a terrific young talent," said Fred Reynolds, president and chief executive of the Viacom Television Stations Group. All the same, "Arthur committed the most egregious incident on air that I have ever seen."

Station managers are not running scared, Mr. Reynolds said, but "there is zero tolerance" for this breach of the rules. To him, the punishment fits the crime, which he likened to road rage. On air, "you just can't lose your cool," he said.

Fred Reynolds, clearly, hasn't seen very much television in his lifetime if this is "the most egregious incident" he's ever seen - although, having seen CBS programming, it would explain a lot if the bloke in charge doesn't actually watch any TV at all. He also doesn't seem to have given any weight to the clear fact that Chi'en didn't think he was on air at all - indeed, despite enormous provocation from Opie and Dopey's three-senses-short snark-pushers, he kept his cool all the way through his report. Fred Reynolds might like to bore on about "zero-tolerance", but it's clear that this is just a lazy comfort blanket to cover up the zero-spine at the top of Viacom these days.