Editorial by John Ziegler

Why "Opie & Anthony" Should Not Have Been Fired

8/25/2002

John Ziegler appeared live on Fox News Channel to discuss the the following topic.

Opie & Anthony Story Isn't So Simple

The notorious duo of "shock jock" radio hosts known as "Opie and Anthony" recently had their highly-rated and widely syndicated program canceled by Infinity broadcasting because they allegedly facilitated a sexual incident at New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral.

To most reasonable people and the vast majority of the news media, this was a simple tale of "shock jocks" going way too far and rightfully being unceremoniously canned. After all, who could possibly defend a radio talk show that held a contest which led to a couple to having sex during the day in one of America's most sacred sites? However, the real story is far more complex and, perhaps, even more troubling than just that.

Before you conclude that I am a rabid "O&A" fan who drives around with a WOW (sort for "Wip 'em Out Wednesday," where ladies were encouraged to show their breasts in public) bumper sticker on my car, I actually despised their show and the type of talk radio that they represent. As a radio talk show host myself, I think that they cause the entire medium to lose massive amounts of vital credibility. In fact, I wish that they and their species had never evolved on the media landscape.

Opie & Anthony should have been taken off the air because they lacked enough listeners for the show to make a profit (which, thanks to our nation's questionable listening "tastes," was not close to actually happening) and not for the reasons that it was so quickly discarded.

What caused their rapid demise was an unelected government agency called the FCC deciding, without ONE complaint about the show before news accounts of the program began to circulate, that the alleged incident may result in the equivalent to the radio death penalty with an unprecedented revocation of the flagship station's licensee. The FCC, prompted by a formal complaint by an angry Catholic League, not only used extraordinarily dramatic threats in their original statement on the incident, but also released their statement to a news media that ran with the story like Donavon McNabb scrambling from a furious pass rush.

It was widely reported that the show had done a "play by play" description of two adults having sex in St. Patrick's Cathedral as part of their third annual "Sex for Sam" contest in which couples get points for having sex in public places while competing for a trip sponsored by Sam Adams beer.

However, there was no description of any sex acts and there is little evidence that any real sex (even by Bill Clinton's definition) actually occurred.

Regardless of what, if any, sex acts actually took place, critics of the show say that it was clearly "obscene" as defined by the FCC and therefore worthy of at least a hefty fine and perhaps a loss of license (though that has never happened for content). But for programming to be considered "obscene" it must "lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value." This is a provision that, for obvious concerns of the government dictating content, has been widely interpreted.

While, at first glance, prompting a couple to have sex in a church would not seem to qualify as legitimate political commentary, a strong argument can be made that it actually does. The "reporter" on the scene actually engaged in a rather extensive argument with a church security guard that was attempting to throw him out of the cathedral. Within that conflict laid whatever redeeming value the show may have had.

It is clear that part of the "comedy" of this stunt was aimed at the recent sex scandal in the Catholic Church. The fact that the Church and its followers would get so enraged at just the idea of CONSENSUAL sex between heterosexual ADULTS perhaps occurring in a church environment and yet seem so slow to punish (or, for that matter, fire) those who have perpetrated far more damaging sex acts on minors within the same setting, would certainly seem to qualify as a valid exposing of massive hypocrisy.

Ironically, it seems clear that if Catholics were not reeling from the pedophilia scandal and searching for an outlet for their fury, Opie & Anthony, for better or worse, would likely have survived this firestorm.

While the evidence that Opie & Anthony committed any real broadcasting crimes worthy of putting their station's licensee in jeopardy is almost non existent, there are those who say that they should have been fired on simply moral grounds. After all, they created a situation that may have sexually defiled one of the nation's most sacred sites. Shouldn't that be a clearly fireable offense? Perhaps we should ask Bill Clinton for his answer to that question.

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