Muzzle awards handed out


The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression has an award you don’t necessarily want to win. The 2008 Jefferson Muzzle awards went to a number of candidates, all of whom in the opinion of the award-givers did their bit to damage the intent and spirit of the First Amendment. FEMA got a Muzzle for faking a news conference, and others went to non-broadcasters such as a policeman, a judge, a DMV and a university, according to an Associated Press report.

But the broadcast category was well-represented too. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) was a winner, for his apparently fumbled attempt to allow the FCC to go ahead and punish inadvertent fleeting over-the-air expletives. CBS Radio/MSNBC picked up an award for bowing to public pressure and firing Don Imus after his Rutgers U. female basketball team gaffe — TJCPFE’s Bob O’Neill said that they shouldn’t have "allowed public criticism to control their actions," and that they should have used broadcast-delay technology to keep the comments off air in the first place.

Finally, the FCC received a Lifetime Muzzle for "having won the award four times and for being in the running nearly each year of the awards’ 17-year history." Most of the FCC’s wins were in the indecent broadcast category.

RBR/TVBR observation: We frankly don’t understand the CBS/MSNBC/Imus explanation. Either Imus should be allowed to speak unmuzzled, or not. Strictly speaking, is not bleeping him out just as offensive to his right of free speech as taking him off the air entirely? They both shut him up — it’s just that the second option is much more forcible and permanent.

But who knows? Maybe this small criticism of the Muzzle Awards will be seen as an attempt to muzzle the Muzzle Awards, and we’ll win our own Muzzle Award just for that.