FCC Slaps Hefty Fine on 'Indecent' Clear Channel

29 January 2004

US regulators have fined radio giant Clear Channel Communications $755,000 (€598,0887; £411,536) for indecent broadcasts.

The Federal Communications Commission imposed the penalty after 26 separate violations of obscenity law in just seven days by a Florida-based DJ known as Bubba the Love Sponge. His shows are transmitted at breakfast, a time slot covered by federal obscenity laws designed to protect children.

Each breach by Bubba met with the maximum possible fine of $27,500; Clear Channel was then fined an extra $40,000 for failing to keep proper records of what had been broadcast.

The penalty comes amid signs of a crackdown on indecent material, with lawmakers from both parties pushing for a tenfold rise in obscenity fines. A hearing on the matter is being held this week by the House Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee.

"These increased enforcement actions will allow the commission to turn what is now a 'cost of doing business' into a significant 'cost for doing indecent business'," commented FCC chairman Michael Powell.

According to FCC regulations, Clear Channel -- the nation's biggest radio operator with 1,200 stations -- has thirty days to pay up or appeal. Its initial response, however, was to call for clearer guidelines on indecency.

"We believe the time has come for every sector of the media to join together and develop consistent standards that are in tune with local community values," declared Mark Mays, the group's president and chief operating officer.

The biggest ever fine for indecency was $1.7 million, imposed on Infinity Broadcasting (part of Viacom) to resolve complaints against high-profile, low-minded DJ Howard Stern.

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff