"This is a textbook example of the chilling effect," UCLA's Cole said. "It's exactly what everyone predicts is going to happen when the government acts in one case and makes broadcasters afraid. It makes a broadcaster ask, 'Why bother?' in the face of listener complaints, government intervention and endless legal fees."
And Tim Dyk, an attorney representing 21 broadcasters and media-related organizations in a U.S. District Court lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the FCC's indecency actions, sees Greater Media's editing efforts as a predictable outgrowth of the FCC's unclear policies on indecent broadcasting.
"Because the FCC is issuing preliminary and final decisions and establishing standards that they expect broadcasters to follow in their programming, and yet there is no way to get judicial review of these forfeiture proceedings, the result is that broadcasters have no choice other than to engage in self-censorship because they can't get a judicial determination as to what's permissible and what's impermissible," Dyk said.
For his part, Stern has been uncharacteristically subdued on the issue, even though in the past he has decried any attempts to edit his broadcasts. He has steadfastly refused to comment to The Times, but sources close to Stern say that his silence belies his very real anger in the matter and that he may leave KLSX for another station that would air his program intact.