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Imus-triggered debate goes on

May 23, 2007 at 7:28 PM

SAN JOSE, Calif., May 23 (UPI) -- The firing of Don Imus and other on-air personalities has launched a discussion of the future of free speech and civil discourse on U.S. airwaves.

Many people from civil rights organizations and elsewhere say actions taken against Imus -- as well as CBS Radio's Elvis and J.V., XM Satellite's Opie and Anthony, and Univision's Luis Jimenez -- for racially and sexually offensive comments could be the beginning of returning responsibility to the airwaves, the San Jose Mercury News said Wednesday.

"This is a brighter time for civil rights," says Rick Callender, director of the San Jose branch of the NAACP. "Radio stations are taking responsibility ... . There is no room for racism, homophobia or other kinds of hate speech on the public airwaves."

But many who make a living in broadcasting counter that the punishment has been heavy-handed. They contend top executives hired shock jocks, didn't question their material for years and then expressed shock only when controversy erupted.

"I don't buy it," says talk host Ronn Owens of KGO-AM in San Francisco. "(CBS President) Les Moonves said he was 'shocked' by the Doghouse and Imus? How long did he wait to be shocked?"

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