FCC says shock-jock Stern is a newsman
- The FCC ruled that “The Howard Stern Show” falls into the category of news programming and is exempt from the 1934 Equal Time regulation.
Sep. 11, 2003 — The Federal Communications Commission ruled Tuesday that shock-jock Howard Stern is a newsman, and thereby not subject to a FCC regulation that requires broadcasters to provide equal air time to political candidates.
Citing a 1984 ruling in which the daytime talk show “Donahue” was given an exemption, the FCC said that it has “recognized less conventional interview formats as being consistent with Congress’ intent in adopting the exemptions to increase news coverage of the political campaign process.” Other programming that has earned exemptions includes “The Sally Jesse Raphael Show,” “Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher,” and “Jerry Springer.”
First Amendment advocates applauded Tuesday’s FCC ruling, saying the government has no business regulating the amount and type of information broadcasters air.
“I think it’s an entirely appropriate decision, as a First Amendment advocate,” said Gene Policinski, deputy director of the First Amendment Center, located in Nashville, Tenn. “We do not have government definition of who or what is a journalist.”
According to an article in yesterday’s Washington Post, “The Howard Stern Show” — notorious for its segments about lesbian sex, toilet humor and other low-brow comedy — has been trying for weeks to book actor Arnold Schwarzenegger. But because Schwarzenegger is one of the many candidates running for governor in the California recall election, Infinity Broadcasting, which owns the Stern show, feared it would be required to provide on-air time to the 134 other candidates in the race.
In asking the FCC for an exemption, Infinity argued that “The Howard Stern Show” is a news program because its guests are determined by their newsworthiness, and all aspects of the regularly scheduled show are managed by Infinity. The program, aired nightly on the E! cable network, will feature “Naked Daredevil with Porn Star Karina.”
According to critics of the move, the FCC ruling has undermined the very foundation of the 1934 Equal Time Regulation.
“They’ve wiped out the 40 years of case law determining what is a bona fide news interview,” said Andrew Jay Schwartzman, who heads the Media Access Project in Washington, D.C. “Howard Stern is not a journalist.”
© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press