The loud roar of indecency rhetoric and threats out of Washington has more than a few in the industry feeling skittish about publicly discussing the subject. (We even had one programmer back off from telling us about a mildly racy promotion because he didn't want it publicized in this environment). But Anthony Cumia, of the exiled Opie & Anthony Show, isn't afraid to vent on the issue. After all, he doesn't have a job to lose. Still we can't help but think that Cumia speaks for other personalities reluctant to talk about this politically charged issue.
In a posting at O&A's unofficial website, Cumia relates how he watched the entire House subcommittee hearing last week. "What was the noble mission of these proceedings?" he writes. "To protect the American people from Janet Jackson's right breast. It doesn't stop there though. Apparently we need protection from just about everything that airs on TV and radio."
Cumia calls Jackson's less-than-one-second flashing "one of those situations that Opie and I have been in many times. It's called, 'It seemed like a good idea at the time.'" But it's not the performers' fault, he says. "The entertainment industry becomes more and more competitive every year. If you don't get the press and stay in the public eye you're done... If you want to work for any length of time, you better make your wheels squeak. When an opportunity comes around to have your name and face splashed across the media, you go for it."
Cumia equates the incident to Jackson "deciding to take the leap" without the NFL's or Viacom's advance knowledge. Calling the entertainment industry "the best scapegoat there is for failed parents," Cumia devotes seven paragraphs to his take on how the FCC reacted to the infamous Sex-in St. Pat's incident that caused Infinity to "cancel" the syndicated Opie & Anthony show. Cumia says he was amused that Rep. Fred Upton's committee found the St. Pat's transcript too crude and disgusting to read when what actually aired on August 15, 2002 was "within the FCC guidelines." (At the hearing, Viacom COO Mel Karmazin testified that Infinity lawyers told him the broadcast was not legally indecent. Infinity has not paid the $357,000 fine.)
Acknowledging that the concept of Sex In St. Pat's "was tasteless and awful and offended people's faith and morality," Cumia says they didn't broadcast any "pew-rocking sex" as reported by the press. Cumia claims the only material in the transcript from the church was this line: "We're in St. Pats and he's doing the balloon knot."
"The press ran with the story that we had broadcast some kind of graphic sexually explicit description of a couple having sex at St. Pats. That is a flat out lie," Cumia says. "FCC Chairman Michael Powell was threatening Infinity Broadcasting with fines and revocation of a broadcast license based on nothing more then second hand news accounts."
By the time he received the transcripts, Powell had painted himself in a corner and "had to react big because they already said they would," Cumia continues. "They couldn't tell the people who, to this day, think we broadcast a live sex act from St. Pats that the show actually fell within FCC guidelines."
The former WNEW/New York afternoon co-host says those unfamiliar with the show would need "an enigma detector" to divine the meaning of "balloon knot." "We knew the situation we were in being a controversial radio show," he says. "We had to toe a tighter line than the other shows that weren't getting the ratings and attention we were getting. And we did. We took great care to speak in a certain way that fell well within FCC guidelines. It seems now that isn't good enough."
Cumia closes by calling the indecency tempest "a morality issue," where "a few people want to push their idea of what is good and right on everyone else."