Federal Communications Commission chief Michael Powell got an unexpected earful on Tuesday during a radio interview when he got a stern talking-to from a caller who happened to be his biggest antagonist, Howard Stern. The King of All Media, who’s battled the FCC for more than a decade over indecency fines, accused Powell of getting his job through nepotism (his father is Colin Powell) and of having a vendetta against Stern and his broadcasters, charges that Powell denied.
”How did you get your job? It is apparent to most of us in broadcasting that your father got you your job,” Stern said during the exchange, which took place on the Ronn Owens show on San Francisco’s KGO-AM. ”And yet I really don’t even think you’re qualified to be the head of the commission.” Powell called that remark a ”cheap shot” and noted that he was appointed to the commission in 1997 by President Clinton, four years before President Bush appointed his father Secretary of State and elevated the younger Powell to FCC chairman. ”You can look at my résumé if you want, Howard, I’m not ashamed of it, I think it justifies my existence,” Powell said. (Before Clinton appointed him to the commission, at age 34, Powell served as a policy adviser for then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, then served as a Justice Department lawyer during Clinton’s first term.)
Stern, who in 2006 will take his act to satellite radio, where he won’t be bound by FCC indecency rules, also complained that the commission had singled him out for enforcement. ”I don’t think that we have made any particular crusade of The Howard Stern Show or you,” Powell said. ”Yeah, OK, Michael,” Stern said. ”That’s why I’ve received the largest fines in history.” In June, the FCC fined radio conglomerate Clear Channel a record $1.75 million over complaints about the Stern show and other programs. ”I think what you’ve been doing is dangerous to free speech,” Stern said. ”I think things have gotten way out of control.”