August 21, 2002

Had FCC done its job, there would have been no barnyard sex over the public airwaves or in St. Pat’s Cathedral

NEWS RELEASE from MORALITY IN MEDIA, Inc.

NEW YORK (21 August 2002) Robert Peters, president of Morality in Media, had the following comments about the lewd sexual behavior that allegedly occurred in St. Patrick’s Cathedral and was described, compliments of New York City’s WNEW radio station, in a live broadcast on the “Opie and Anthony Show.”

 “Radio shock jocks routinely utter language over the public airwaves that is indecent, while the stations that carry these vulgarians rake in countless millions with little to fear from the Federal Communications Commission.

 “There is little to fear because enforcement of the broadcast indecency law is sporadic at best, fines levied for indecency law violations are too small to deter future violations, and station licenses are never revoked (or not renewed) because of repeat or flagrant indecency law violations.

“Morality in Media received its first complaint about WNEW’s ‘Opie & Anthony Show’ back in May 1999.  In June 2000, an MIM member sent a letter of complaint to the FCC about the show and also sent tapes of some programs.  Nothing was done so she sent another letter of complaint to the FCC in November 2000 and also sent additional tapes of programs.

“On June 2, 2000 the N.Y. Post reported that the two shock jocks ‘set up someone to creep up to’ a TV reporter and ‘hold up a profane sign alluding to female genitalia as she delivered a live report.’  On July 22, 2000 a N.Y. Times op ed columnist reported that dialogue on Opie and Anthony ‘frequently takes a disturbing twist, often involving sexual references described in vivid terms.’  On August 7, 2000, Newsday reported that the pair built a new audience of ‘primarily young men who enjoyed the kind of talk that was once limited to locker rooms and particularly nasty bars.’ On December 8, 2000 a columnist for the Daily News reported that the two ‘used their show…to promote the Voyeurbus, a glass-sided vehicle that was cruising Manhattan showing off semi-naked people to promote a naked-people website.  Opie and Anthony didn’t get where they are by failing to understand what kind of thing attracts those 12 to 34 year old boys and men that advertisers so covet.’

“The FCC’s regional office in New York City could have begun taping ‘Opie and Anthony’ in June 2000, and the FCC could soon thereafter have begun issuing Notices of Apparent Liability with increasingly large fines if WNEW was routinely violating the broadcast indecency law.  Regional offices have in the past taped programs for indecency law enforcement purposes.

“But the FCC waited until June 2002 before issuing a Notice of Apparent Liability in response to citizen complaints, in which it found that WNEW violated the indecency law by ‘willfully and repeatedly broadcasting indecent language on three occasions’ (twice in November 2000 and once in January 2001 and all on ‘Opie & Anthony’). For this, the FCC imposed a forfeiture of $21,000 on Viacom-Infinity Broadcasting-owned WNEW.

“Infinity Broadcasting must also know that if it doesn’t pay the $21,000, there is a significant likelihood the government won’t institute legal proceedings to collect the money.

“Clearly, the threatened forfeiture of $21,000 did not deter Opie and Anthony from organizing a contest—that WNEW management must have known about—inviting if not inciting listeners to have sex in public places, and then broadcasting a description of sex that allegedly took place in St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

“In upholding the broadcast indecency law in the 1978 FCC v. Pacifica case, the Supreme Court wrote: “’a nuisance may be merely a right thing in the wrong place—like a pig in the parlor instead of the barnyard.”

“Had the FCC been doing its job all along to ensure that WNEW fulfilled its public interest obligations, there would have been no barnyard sex over the airwaves or allegedly in St. Patrick’s—because Opie and Anthony would long ago have either cleaned up their program or been dismissed.”

Author: MIM   08/21/2002

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