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The chilling effect of Bush’s FCC hits home.

Our local public radio/NPR station is buckling to the pressure of the Janet Booby Effect. Look at this sh*t — you have to be worried about free speech: NC public radio station bars use of phrase ‘reproductive rights’. (Herald Sun):

There’s a big difference between reproductive rights and reproductive health, says the head of a group forced to substitute one word for the other in an underwriting announcement on a local radio station.

WUNC-FM recently informed Chapel Hill-based Ipas that use of the phrase “reproductive rights” in the group’s on-air underwriting announcement could be interpreted as advocating a particular political position.

The station required Ipas, an international women’s rights and health organization, to use “reproductive health” instead.

Ipas’ executive vice president, Anu Kumar, said she disagreed with WUNC’s interpretation and said the words don’t mean the same thing. But she said she was less upset about WUNC’s decision than with the political climate that led to it.

“What concerns me is the chilling effect of the world we’re living in, which makes everybody super-cautious about what they say,” she said. “The issue of reproductive rights, like many others, has been cast as an `either you’re with us or you’re against us’ issue, and so much of the language is assumed to be code for something else.”

WUNC’s general manager said the station made the change to avoid trouble with the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC prohibits public radio stations from airing underwriting announcements that advocate political, social or religious causes.

“We can accept sponsorships and make announcements from advocacy groups, but we can’t use advocacy language,” said general manager Joan Siefert Rose. “Unfortunately, the FCC doesn’t specify what that is. There’s no list of forbidden terms. The only way to find out if you’ve stepped over the line is if someone challenges it and the FCC issues a fine. So we are always pretty conservative in interpreting the announcements we make.”

Kumar said the original phrase has an internationally understood meaning that better conveys the scope of the organization’s work.

“`Reproductive rights’ is not a euphemism for abortion,” Kumar said. “Among other things, it means the right to infertility treatments, the right to contraception, the right to information, the right to live free of rape and violence. In global forums, those meanings are universally understood. And `reproductive health’ doesn’t convey all of that. It’s important to say that our work is about rights as well as health.”

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding