Silencing Fairvilla

Breaking up is hard to do.;;And although Ed Tyll's topic of the day concerned break-ups, the self-described "most annoying" radioman in Orlando didn't want to talk about his station's breakup with the Fairvilla Adult Megastore.;;While Tyll found it unacceptable fodder for his cannon, the decision by Paxson Communications, owner of WTKS/Real Radio FM 104.1, to break off relationships with Fairvilla and its other adult advertisers has implications beyond any hardships on businesses left without a radio station on which to promote their products. The cancellation of adult advertising by WTKS is an example of how companies with monopoly control and conservative leanings can censor anything they find objectionable. ;;So far, Fairvilla, the city's pornographic equivalent of Toys R Us, has been shut out in attempts at finding another radio station to air its commercials. "Radio is a really tough one lately because of the monopoly out there," says Deborah Peterson, marketing manager for Fairvilla. For more than four years, Fairvilla had spent large sums of money for spots on WTKS. "We've lost a really great vehicle. It's hard for us to find another radio station in Orlando that will pick us up." Peterson says only one station has agreed to meet with her to discuss advertising.;;In passing the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Congress repealed limits on the number of radio stations a single company can own in a market. Since then, the number of owners of the top 12 Orlando stations has shrunken to three ("Air force," June 27, 1996). The law touted to stimulate competition and create jobs has instead resulted in the formation of monopolies and layoff of workers. And now censorship. ;;"This is a situation where you have a limited resource. These people are using those frequencies to allow speech which they believe is acceptable," says David Wasserman, an attorney who represents Fairvilla. He described the cancellations as examples of "freedom of expression, only if you can afford to buy 80 percent of the radio stations in the market." In fashioning a legal argument, Wasserman can draw on legal precedents classifying pornography as constitutionally protected speech, the rights of sex-toy users to have access to the aids of their choice, as well as the unprecedented effect brought recently onto the marketplace by broadcasting corporations which control access to desirable segments of advertising markets. In effect, such monopolies are controlling the airwaves to an extent the government cannot.;;Before considering legal action, Fairvilla is hoping to convince Paxson to reconsider. Understandably so, considering Paxson's influence. With about 40 radio stations, including six in Orlando, Clearwater-based Paxson controls more airwaves than any company in Florida. It also owns about 50 TV stations across the nation. Owner Lowell W. "Bud" Paxson started the Home Shopping Channel and now controls a broadcasting empire that includes the Worship Network. Thus situated, Paxson can decide whether to use a station to sell religion or legislate morality.;;Adult advertising is allowed on none of his stations, explains Jenny Sue Rhoades, general manager of Paxson Broadcasting of Orlando. Paxson purchased WTKS about a year ago. But only recently has its sales staff been consolidated with the company's other stations. "That's always been our policy. It just sort of fell through the cracks," Rhoades says.;;Fairvilla will find another station, Rhoades says. And if it doesn't, tough luck. "This is Mr. Paxson's ball and bat. He's a Christian. He would prefer not airing it," she says;;Rhoades disputed any comparison between adult ads and content aired by WTKS disc jockey Howard Stern, who used to entertain audiences by playing "butt bongos" on the bare rumps of female guests. "Mr. Paxson can't control Howard Stern," Rhoades said. ;;What next will Paxson or other media monopolies find objectionable? Are such corporations to be entrusted with setting community standards? Don't expect to hear these issues debated on WTKS -- or any of Orlando's top stations, for that matter.


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