FCC Chairman Michael Powell was quizzed by an unlikely caller during an interview on KGO/San Francisco morning man Ronn Owen's show today when Howard Stern called in to the program.
Stern was on air for close to twenty minutes with Powell, initially asking the FCC chairman," Does it make you nervous to talk to me?" "It does not," Powell replied.
Stern then launched into Powell, suggesting he was not fit for the position and the only reason he was in it was due to his father. "How did you get your job? Do you deny your father got you this job?" asked Stern.
"I would deny it, exceedingly," said Powell. "You can look at my resume if you want. I'm not ashamed of it and I think it justifies my existence. I was Chief of Staff of the anti-trust division. I'm an attorney. I was a clerk on the court of the United States. I have the same credentials as virtually anyone who sits in my position does. I think it's a little unfair that because I happen to have a famous father and other public officials don't that you make an assumption that that's the only basis on which I serve in my position."
Stern didn't accept the answer, but turned his line of questioning to why the FCC is afraid to go to court over indecency definitions. "When will you allow this to go to court and stop practicing your form of racketeering that you do by making stations pay up or you hold back their license renewal?" asked Stern.
"First of all, that's flatly false," stated Powell. "There is no reason why Viacom or any other company who feels that they have been wrongly fined can't sue us in court. We have no basis what-so-ever to prevent them from going to court."
"That's a lie. I've lived through your fines, Michael," countered Stern, who pointed out that Mel Karmazin had personally told him that licenses were at risk if fines weren't paid. The two then volleyed back and forth over Janet Jackson and Oprah Winfrey before time was called and Owen had to break for commercials.
Stern got in one last thought, telling Powell, "I don't think that you personally hate me. I think what you have been doing is dangerous to free speech. I don't think just against me, I think things have gotten way out of control. I am not personally vindictive. I'm happy to be going to satellite radio on Sirius. I welcome the move. I think it is a sad day though when the marketplace no longer determines what is indecent. I think there is tremendous hypocrisy that you allow late at night on the radio with teenagers calling in to Lovelines talking about blatant sexual acts. There is a complete double standard here when it comes to me in morning radio when it is probably the only time of day that parents listen with their children."
Stern was gone from the line by the time Powell said, "Howard has an argument, but his argument is that there should be no limits on what he is able to do on the radio. If there are going to be limits, someone's going to have to define them and someone is going to have to enforce them."