Howard Stern's Move to Satellite Radio Still Has Foes

By Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:05 PM EDT

( - A group that promotes decency in the entertainment media Monday argued that America's most famous shock jock, Howard Stern, should still be subject to Federal Communications Commission indecency laws when his show begins broadcasting on satellite radio in January.

Stern's last broadcast on commercial radio was Friday. His debut on Sirius Satellite Radio is set for Jan. 9, a move that has produced an avalanche of hype for several reasons, especially because Stern will be free to say and do what he wants without being fined or censored by the FCC. The agency has often penalized Stern's syndicated commercial radio show. Sirius Satellite is a subscription service and not subject to the FCC's indecency rules.

However, Morality in Media president Robert Peters is not willing to back off.

"There is no reason why Howard Stern should be regulated on one form of radio media but not the other," Peters said. "Whether broadcast from a tower or a satellite, it is still the public airwaves and The Howard Stern Show should still be subject to broadcast indecency laws."

Peters said the $12.95 per month subscription fee for satellite radio "does not necessarily immunize a form of communication from indecency regulation" and should be compared to telephone service. Indecency regulations prohibit indecent communications over telephone lines for commercial purposes even though telephone users must pay fees for the service.

Sirius should offer Stern's show outside the satellite radio company's normal programming package, according to Peters, so subscribers would have to ask to receive the show, even if they don't have to pay an extra fee.

Melissa Caldwell, director of research and publications at the Parents Television Council, said she agrees that Stern's show should be offered as a separate service, but said indecency laws should not apply to him on satellite.

"The best way to handle the situation," she said, "is to move to an a la carte system so that you're only paying for the channels that you want coming into your home," Caldwell said. The Parents Television Council is headed by Brent Bozell, who is also president of Cybercast News Service.

Caldwell added that worried parents are aware of a show's content because "many of these satellite services do post warnings on the display screen to let you know that there's mature content and it's not just at the beginning of the broadcast, it's throughout."

Peters said that government regulation of indecency has existed since "before we even had a constitution." He added that he hopes "some of these [Supreme Court] changes are going to bring the court back to where I think it needs to be."

A spokesman for Sirius did not return calls requesting comment for this article.

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