new front on the content wars
may be opening when Congress holds its
first hearing specifically into media
"stereotypes and degradation" of women
-- particularly African- American women
-- later this month.
Hearing, not yet officially announced
and tentatively skedded for Sept. 25,
will focus primarily on hip-hop lyrics
and videos, which critics have frequently
derided for explicit misogyny aimed largely
at black women.
But other media will likely come under
"I want to engage not just the music industry
but the entertainment industry at large
to be part of a solution," said Rep. Bobby
Rush (D-Ill.), chairman of the House Subcommittee
on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection,
which will hold the hearing.
Just as his colleagues on other committees
have summoned TV execs to be grilled on
sexual or violent content, Rush wants
to hear from the leaders of companies
purveying rap music. The intent is to
examine commercial practices behind the
music's most controversial content.
"I want to talk to executives at these
conglomerates who've never taken a public
position on what they produce," Rush said.
"But it's been surprisingly very difficult
to get them to commit to appearing."
Rush had planned the hearing twice before
and had to postpone both times to accommodate
execs' schedules. "But after a series
of long conversations and other communications,
they know this hearing is going to go
forward, and they will be coming -- reluctantly,
if I might add."
Witnesses include toppers Philippe Dauman
of Viacom, Doug Morris of Universal Music
Group and Edgar Bronfman Jr. of Warner
A music industry exec said the delay was
more an issue of getting the right people
to appear. "Not everyone agrees that the
top people are the same as the right people,"
the exec said, noting that decisions to
sign particular artists or distribute
their CDs are often made at lower levels.
Another insider said scheduling conflicts
had been the only reason for the delay.
So far, only one artist has committed
to appearing -- Master P, who began his
career as a gangsta rapper but has since
focused on positive messages and images
in his music.
The witness list is still being developed,
according to Rush's spokesman. A congressional
aide said witness lists are never finalized
and released before the hearing itself
is announced. Expect this hearing to be
formally announced one week prior to the
confirmed date, per standard procedure,
the aide added.
Currently titled "From Imus to Industry:
The Business of Stereotypes and Degradation,"
the hearing is intended to address "what
is certainly a timely issue and one that
won't go away," Rush said.
"I want to look at not only the problem
caused by misogynistic content in some
hip-hop music but also some of the pain
that emanates from this degradation,"
he continued. Rush plans on having "representatives
from African American women's groups"
appear before the hearing.
Rush stressed that this is "not an anti-artist
hearing, or antimusic or antiyouth hearing."
He said he's hoping for voluntary -- not
regulatory -- solutions. "I respect the
First Amendment, but rights without responsibility
is anarchy, and that's much of what we
have now. It's time for responsible people
to stand up and accept responsibility."
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