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FCC out of step with modern America

For the first time in five years, my morning commute is about to get much more lame.

Beginning in 2006, radio shock jock Howard Stern will pack up his show and make the move to the Sirius satellite radio network.

After 30-plus years of providing raunchy entertainment that has always pushed the envelope, it’s a shame it had to come to this.

I don’t blame Stern either.

Terrestrial radio has been getting a lot more restrictive since you, Mr. Michael Powell, outgoing chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, decided to wage a one-man crusade to insert morality into the airwaves. It’s no secret you decided to sit up and actually do your job after the big flap during the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVIII — on an election year, no less.

Later that year, faced with the commission’s heavy hand, Clear Channel Broadcasting, which syndicates Stern’s show, opted to drop him from several of its markets after complaints surfaced.

On top of that, there was the commission playing the part of Polly Pissy-Pants after a raunchy pre-game skit that aired during a broadcast of Monday Night Football.

Give us a break. I thought that skit with Terrell Owens was hilarious. I can’t be the only one.

It’s disappointing that this renewed vigor on the part of the FCC is reducing the variety of expression in the media.

It’s ridiculous to suddenly decide to crack down on a radio performer who has been performing the same schtick for 30-some years and nearly five presidential administrations.

There are much more flagrant offenses on air than radio segments featuring porn stars discussing their sex lives.

An episode of Fear Factor shown last year had contestants running through a maze hooked up to an electric transformer. If the contestants made a wrong move, they were greeted with a nasty shock.

Despite numerous complaints, neither the producers of Fear Factor, nor General Electric, which owns NBC, were fined. Sure, maybe some people were pissed and some folks at Pacific Gas and Electric thought it wasn’t too entertaining. There still weren’t any fines.

So let me get this straight, the idea of people running through an electrified maze is more palatable than having someone hooked up to an automated spanking machine for the chance to meet his favorite pro wrestler?

Am I missing something here?

What about the 2003 Oprah show on teenage sexuality where she got away with discussing a sex act in graphic detail on-air? Somehow, I don’t remember picking up the San Francisco Chronicle and reading any news stories on Oprah getting socked with fines for that.

Where’s the justice in that? I can’t be the only who thinks “tossing the salad” is a lot more obscene than fart jokes or bowling for breast implants.

And I certainly don’t remember when “nipple” was one of the Seven Dirty Words of broadcasting.

What the FCC is really doing is scaring people to the point where they don’t want to create challenging media products. Instead of pushing boundaries, they’re playing it safe.

The chilling effect is spilling outward. This year’s batch of Super Bowl ads were OK, especially the ones with the monkeys. The FedEx one with Burt Reynolds was a hoot, too.

But none of them could ever top the Miller Lite cat-fight girls. The spot came close, but that only aired once. Who knows how good the ads that never ran might have been. The truth is, we might not ever see that kind of witty, zany humor again, at least not while the FCC continues its practices. Nobody wants to get fined. Nobody wants to make anything that even has a remote chance of getting fined, the criteria of which seems to be as precise as an Iraq exit strategy.

Thankfully, I hear you’re on your way out, Mr. Powell. That’s the best news I’ve heard to date. But it’s too late, you’ve already done your damage.

Now I have to shell out $12.95 a month just to hear my favorite show on satellite radio.

Emmanuel Lopez, Spartan Daily, San Jose State University.