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J&B on rocks with BCAT

 

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From The Indiana Daily Student
Tuesday, March 2, 1993

J&B on rocks with BCAT

by Jamal Kheiry
Daily Student Columnist

Benjamin Franklin said that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, or something to that effect. I always considered that quote to be a pessimistic and paranoid assessment of freedom during his day, but I am now seeing that it is as applicable today as it was when he first uttered it. Especially when it comes to protecting our right to express ourselves freely.

In this particular case, being eternally vigilant means watching a phenomenon called "J&B on the ROX," a comedy talk show on Bloomington Community Access Television (BCAT-- cable channel 3) which airs every Tuesday night at 11:00. The show has come up against potential censorship by the station.

One of the regular segments of the show is called "J&B's Video Erotica." One of these segments depicts a man sitting in front of a TV drinking Sprite and eating potato chips. He is watching what one could assume is a porno movie, and a dildo is protruding from his fly.

During the segment, he strokes the dildo, twists it into a biologically impossible position, and then hits it several times with a wrench. The episode with the dildo segment is not being aired, pending review by BCAT.

Another episode is being held because the intro to "J&B's Video Erotica" is not exactly mainstream. Mainstream or not, J and B think it's funny.

"For some extra punch," said J, they wrote a "J" on one of their penises and a "B" on the other. The segment's intro showed their dangling, labeled penises.

J said they did it "for depth of field, and because it's funny. We certainly didn't think we'd appeal to anyone's prurient interest. We weren't trying to titillate anyone," but the episode is being held because "supposedly it bumps up against community standards."

This concept of "community standards" is a recurring theme in the struggles for and against censorship.

"It gives the library (which runs BCAT) a chance to censor stuff that isn't exactly illegal, but which does cause problems for them," said J.

What I fail to understand is how community standards can be at all compatible with the concept of freedom of expression. If a person is free to express him or herself except when it goes against community standards, then what the hell is the point of having such a freedom? Are homogeneous communities our objective? Do we want towns and cities rife with consensus, mired in vacuous, unquestioning agreement about good and bad, right and wrong? The correct answer, of course, is an emphatic NO.

"The real issue here is that most people in Bloomington don't understand what community access cable is," said J. "They don't realize it's a medium for the free expression of ideas that aren't tied to any commercial obligations or political obligations."

As J and B pointed out in an op-ed piece in the Herald-Times, "persons who disagree with programming at the station have an unprecedented opportunity for response: they can produce their own television program."

The whole point of BCAT is spelled out in its name -- community access. I've seen such varied programming as Hispanic church services, marijuana cooking shows, Japanese movies, evangelical presentations and political demonstrations on BCAT. It reflects the diversity of our own community like no other TV station can. Unlike the big networks, it doesn't have to appeal to the lowest common denominator of viewer to please the advertisers. It is funded by the community and exists to serve the community.

A Feb.12 H-T article described how a Bloomington man became incensed when he saw a marijuana cooking show, called "Pots, Pans and Pot," being aired on BCAT. He was pissed because some of his money was paying for the airing of that show (a small part of your cable bill goes toward the funding of BCAT), and he certainly didn't want to fund such drivel.

What his response fails to consider is that he is not only funding that show, but also the opportunity for others like him to air their views. It is the essence of democratized media. If he was willing to put forth the same amount of effort as the producer of "Pots, Pans and Pot," he could put together his own show and blather about how terrible hash brownies taste or whatever the hell it is he found offensive about the show.

As media technologies continue to outrun legislation and regulation, there is going to be an ever-increasing opportunity for so-called radical programming.

The future might hold such specialized programming as Klan channels, gay channels and almost anything you can imagine, spread out over hundreds of channels.

As this trend becomes reality, B said, censorship will increasingly be seen as an acceptable recourse, but "the flow of information will become impossible to restrict."

Let's hope so. Fight censorship at every turn. But tonight, watch "J & B on the ROX" and judge it for yourself.


Jamal Kheiry is a graduate student in journalism.

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Production Notes:

January 3rd, 2004
My Article

Jamal: I'm always amazed at how terrible my writing appears to me when I see it years later. The problem I had during my nascent writing career at the Indiana Daily Student is that I wrote as though I were having a conversation, and didn't bother to wrap things up neatly, or even string a coherent theme from the beginning to the end of the thing. Back then, I didn't even read my stuff a second time. The ideas are still valid, and I guess that's all you can hope to turn out when you're as inexperienced as I was.

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