FCC Won't Budge on Infinity Indecency Fine
By Bill McConnell -- Broadcasting & Cable, 3/7/2004 7:00:00 PM
What a surprise. The FCC Friday refused Infinity Radio's request to reduce the $27,500 indecency fine imposed in December against WKRK(FM) Detroit's Deminski and Doyle show. Of course, these days, Congress is slapping broadcasters (and the FCC) around for letting that foul stuff on the air.
The shock jocks were fined over a call-in portion of their show in which listeners were encouraged to describe sex acts they'd performed. It got plenty graphic.
At the moment, $27,500 is the maximum that can be charged for a single violation on a single station. But the Senate Commerce Committee Tuesday morning will vote on a measure to increase indecency fines. The House Commerce Committee passed a similar bill last week (see page 3).
With hundreds of thousands in fines pending for that and other raunchy broadcasts, Infinity officials would say only that they "turned over the FCC's order to our lawyers."
Infinity already has implied that it will go to court to fight a much larger $357,000 fine against the company's WNEW(FM) New York for sex stunt at St. Patrick's Cathedral by DJs Opie & Anthony. The St. Pat's broadcast aired on multiple stations.
If Infinity doesn't back down, the resulting legal battles could determine whether the federal government's push to clean up the airwaves passes constitutional muster or is a violation of First Amendment rights.
The FCC is also close to a decision that will settle complaints about its handling of a case involving U2 frontman Bono, who blurted out the f-word during NBC's 2003 Golden Globes broadcast.
As reported by BROADCASTING & CABLE in the March 1 issue, the commission will reverse its original decision giving the green light for use of the f-word when it's not used as a specific reference to sex. (Bono called his award "f****** brilliant.")
The FCC also will uphold its decision not to fine NBC's O&Os. An FCC source confirmed that nearly a dozen more proposed fines and forfeiture orders are on the way, some for six figures.
The investigations include indecency complaints about Infinity's Howard Stern as well as broadcasts by Emmis and Clear Channel stations.
Meanwhile, FCC Chairman Michael Powell late last week told Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) that the FCC might not wait around for new tougher indecency laws before considering license revocation.
In a letter to Dingell, Powell wrote, "In light of the Commission's recently expressed intention to consider license revocation as a possible sanction in more egregious indecency cases, we will give serious consideration to designating for hearing renewal applications of licensees with serious or repeated indecency violations."
Powell also re-emphasized that a couple dozen complaints are about to be acted upon, with most getting hit with proposed fines.
The new get-tough attitude, no doubt, is about to turn some shock jocks into shocked jocks.
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