But he's found a friend in U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside).
Ackerman called in to Stern's morning radio show last Thursday around 8 a.m. to talk about his stance on the Indecency Bill, which passed in the House of Representatives the same day by a 391-22 vote.
The bill was introduced in the House on Jan. 21, two weeks prior to CBS's Super Bowl halftime show during which Janet Jackson's breast was exposed to millions of viewers. Two days after the Super Bowl incident, the bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate Feb. 9.
"I thought what Congress did in its rush is going to have a chilling effect on free speech in the media and also there is a political aspect to it. It's very partisan," Ackerman said.
The new regulations would be enforced by the Federal Communications Commission, which monitors the content of public airways and licenses stations.
Stern, whose controversial morning show regularly features strippers and pornographic movie stars, was fired this month from six of the Clear Channel markets in which he is broadcast. Though he is employed by Infinity Broadcasting, Clear Channel is the conduit for his show in more than 300 markets nationwide.
"They don't like his politics anymore," Ackerman said. "What happened was, he didn't start saying dirtier things - he started criticizing the president."
Stern has criticized President George W. Bush over issues ranging from the war in Iraq to the president's stance on gay marriage.
"The real threat is they're going to silence what is arguably the most powerful anti-Bush microphone in this country," Ackerman said.
Originally Stern was a supporter of the Iraq war. It was his change in opinion, Ackerman said, that really angered Conservatives.
"Suddenly, everybody is listening to his every word and waiting to trounce on him," he said.
WXRK, the Manhattan-based station that broadcasts his show, could not be reached for comment.
Ackerman said the questions of indecency were too vague to be judged with such high fines as the $500,000 being proposed in the act.
The measure approved by the House would increase the fines from $27,500 to $500,000, to be imposed on both the companies airing the programs found to be indecent and the artists who are in violation.
"If you raise the fine to $500,000 and a guy's on 300 stations, it's $150 million," he said. "You say to somebody, we're going to end your right to speak in America by bankrupting you."
Ackerman believes the Senate will modify the fine to decrease its severity, but he is still unsure what standard will be used to determine "indecency." The Senate bill currently has the maximum fine set at $275,000.
"A Supreme Court judge once said when talking about obscenity laws, 'I can't define it, but I know it when I see it,'" he said. "That's it. Things change as time goes by. ... If you don't like what somebody is saying on radio and TV then it's easy - change the dial."
Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@times
©2004 Community News Group
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