Federal Communications Commission chairman Al Sikes defended himself Wednesday against claims that he is trying to censor shock jock Howard Stern.
Sikes, who faced C-SPAN callers for an hour in a session dominated by questions about Stern, said, “The fact is I’m not a censor at all unless you want to look at it in the narrowest of senses.”
The FCC chair said Congress passed a law to limit “indecent” broadcasting, and that it is the job of the FCC to enforce the law.
When C-SPAN honcho Brian Lamb noted that recent Arbitron surveys place Stern’s show on WJFK-FM Washington at No. 1 in the D.C. market, Sikes replied, “Frankly, I worry for our society when a guy like Howard Stern is No. 1 on the airwaves.”
He attributed Stern’s popularity to the deejay’s “shock value” and warned of “a coarsening of society that goes on.”
Infinity Broadcasting, which syndicates Stern’s radio program, has been hit with a $ 600,000 fine by the FCC for airing “indecent” material on three Infinity stations.
Sikes said, “As a practical matter, there’s not a lot the government can do” to Stern, since it is the station itself that faces penalties. “There will always be a market for Howard Stern, who deals exclusively in bad taste,” said Sikes.
Sikes, who is retiring next week on the eve of Bill Clinton’s inauguration, said his future remains unclear. He said he doubts he will run for public office , “but I don’t totally rule it out.”