FCC Hits Clear Channel With Record Fines

WASHINGTON, D.C. The Federal Communica-
tions Commission on Tuesday proposed a record $715,000 in indecency fines against broadcast subsidiaries of radio giant Clear Channel Communications, and it turned its attention to coarse fare on TV with a proposed $27,500 fine against Young Broadcasting’s KRON in San Francisco.

The FCC said it wants to apply the statutory maximum of $27,500 against the Clear Channel companies for each of 26 airings of the Bubba the Love Sponge program on several stations over several days in 2001. The broadcasts included talk of masturbation and oral sex, descriptions of sexual organs and other indecent speech, the FCC said.

The agency called the proposed fine the largest in FCC history. It added a proposed $40,000 fine for poor record keeping for a total proposed penalty of $755,000.

In the Young Broadcasting case, the FCC said viewers were shown male genitalia during a morning news interview with a performer from a stage production of Puppetry of the Penis in October 2002.

FCC Chairman Michael Powell said the Young Broadcasting case showed the agency would broaden its enforcement attention. “Today, we open another front … by focusing on indecency on television,” Powell said in a statement.

The FCC’s moves on Tuesday represent an early step in what can be a lengthy enforcement process that gives companies a chance to argue against proposed fines.

Clear Channel issued a statement that did not address the FCC’s charges, but called for an industry-wide task force to develop indecency guidelines. “We work hard every day to entertain, not to offend our listeners,” said John Hogan, CEO of Clear Channel Radio.

At Young Broadcasting, KRON president/general manager Dino Dinovitz said the offensive display took place during a live interview. “Unfortunately it happened. We are deeply sorry,” Dinovitz said. He said the station apologized immediately to viewers and suspended several personnel involved with the interview. Young intends to pay the fine, Dinovitz said.

Pending bills in Congress would increase tenfold the maximum fine and legislate which words could not be said on broadcast TV.

The Clear Channel stations involved are WPLA-FM, WCKT-FM, WXTB-FM and WRLX-FM. All four are based in Florida.