WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – Federal regulators said Thursday they will seek fines totaling nearly $500,000 against six Clear Channel Communications Inc. radio stations for airing indecent comments made on the popular Howard Stern show.
The FCC said the amount represented the maximum possible under current law of $27,500 for each of the total of eighteen violations.
Clear Channel announced it was pulling the show from its airwaves permanently after failing to get assurances that the program would comply with decency regulations from its syndicate, Infinity Broadcasting, a unit of Viacom Inc.
Clear Channel first yanked Stern from the six stations in February after complaints about a discussion on his show that included explicit sex talk and a racist remark.
Infinity declined to comment on Clear Channel’s decision.
The FCC’s proposed fine marks the first time the agency has counted as a separate violation each indecent comment uttered on air – something it warned broadcasters about a year ago.
“Today’s decision is a step forward toward imposing meaningful fines,” FCC commissioner Michael Copps said in a statement.
The radio stations subject to the proposed penalties were in Cocoa Beach and Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Louisville, Kentucky; Honeoye Falls, New York; Pittsburgh and San Diego.
The FCC has been cracking down on indecent broadcasts after an outcry from parents and lawmakers. It accelerated its action after the Janet Jackson incident during her performance on national TV during the Super Bowl in February.
Federal rules bar airing obscene material and limit the airing of indecent comments, such as explicit and graphic sexual or excretory references, to late-night broadcasts when children are less likely to be listening or watching.
“We had hoped to return Mr. Stern’s show to the air free from indecent content,” said John Hogan, president and CEO of Clear Channel Radio.
“Unfortunately, the FCC’s latest action, combined with deafening silence from the Stern show on their future plans to comply with the law, leave us no choice but to abandon the program for good,” Hogan said.