Hearing turns microphone on biz

Media execs have their say on what public hears, sees

WASHINGTON -- A prominent congressman is calling some top media executives before his subcommittee Tuesday in an effort to understand how "racist and sexist language and images" shape popular culture.

Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., plans to question executives about their responsibility releasing recordings or video games that often include racist and misogynistic lyrics or images during his hearing called "From Imus to Industry: The Business of Stereotypes and Degrading Images."

Scheduled to appear before the subcommittee are Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman; Edgar Bronfman Jr. chairman and CEO of Warner Music Group; Doug Morris, chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group; Alfred Liggins, president and CEO of Radio One; and Strauss Zelnick, a partner in ZelnickMedia and chairman of Take-Two Interactive.

One record industry executive said he expected the industry leaders to defend their industry -- and also to try and explain that they know there are difficult decisions.

"It's hard to balance artistic creativity with social responsibly," the executive said. "Just where do you draw the line with what is art and what goes too far."

A pair of rap musicians -- Percy Miller, aka Master P, founder and CEO at No Limit Records, and Levell Crump, aka David Banner -- also are scheduled to testify.

Rush's hearing comes as some have begun pushing for more civility in rap music. The Enough Is Enough Campaign, an organization that attempts to counteract negative black stereotypes, plans a protest today outside the Rayburn Building, where the hearing is scheduled.

Rush said wants to examine "the impact of racist and sexist language and images transmitted via interstate commerce and telecommunications modes, the perpetuation of damaging stereotypes and how best to protect consumers from the increasingly coarse and vulgar language and images that have the effect of undermining important moral values in our society."

While the hearing was named for Imus -- who was fired at CBS Radio and MSNBC after he called some members of the Rutgers University women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos" -- he isn't on the bill.

Rush has said he wants to get the executives to take a public position on the music or ideo games their companies produce, saying they need to take responsibility for how the images they produce changes society.