Government says Howard Stern's raunchy radio show is a news program

Wednesday, September 10th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ When you think about news shows, what comes to mind? There's ``Meet the Press.'' And ``Face the Nation.'' And now, Howard Stern's radio show.

That's right. The Federal Communications Commission ruled Tuesday that Stern's raunchy radio program is a ``bona fide news interview'' program.

The decision was in response to a request made by New York-based Infinity Broadcasting Operations Inc., which wanted a ruling that its widely syndicated Stern show is a news program and exempt from equal time requirements for political candidates.

The decision will allow Stern to put actor Arnold Schwarzenegger on the air without having to offer time to the scores of other candidates running for governor in California.

Citing a 1984 decision that qualified the ``Donahue'' talk show for the news exemption, the FCC said there should be room for ``less conventional interview formats'' to increase coverage of the political process.

``Since the 'Donahue' decision, other news interview programs or segments thereof with unique and innovative format elements, such as the `Sally Jessy Raphael Show,' `Jerry Springer' and `Politically Incorrect,' have qualified for the news interview exemption,'' the FCC said.

``We expected the commission to rule favorably and we're pleased with the results,'' said Infinity Broadcasting spokesman Dana McClintock.

Stern, whose show includes regular segments such as the ``Wheel of Sex,'' has clashed with the FCC in the past. In 1995 Infinity Broadcasting agreed to pay a $1.7 million fine to settle a series of indecency charges the agency leveled against the Stern show.

The FCC said the broadcasts involved included graphic discussions of masturbation and child molestation and a segment in which Stern talked about shaving his posterior.

The FCC's latest decision didn't go over well with Andrew Schwartzman, president of the Media Access Project, a Washington-based media watchdog group.

``Howard Stern isn't 'bona fide' anything,'' Schwartzman said. He said the decision ``mocks that system by equating Howard Stern with Tim Russert,'' host of NBC's ``Meet the Press.''