As Washington reaches for a bigger hammer to pound raunchy broadcasters, radio giant Clear Channel Communications Inc. announced that it has "taken the lead" in fighting indecency over the airwaves.
The company Wednesday said it will fire any DJ or on-air personality the FCC decides has violated government indecency restrictions.
"As broadcast licensees, we are fully responsible for what our stations air," said Clear Channel President Mark Mays. "We intend to make sure all our DJs and programmers understand what is and what is not appropriate on Clear Channel radio shows."
Clear Channel may be taking the lead publicly, but Viacom President Mel Karmazin reportedly laid down a "zero tolerance" indecency policy to Viacom’s Infinity radio stations in a memo last week.
Clear Channel’s new policy is being announced one week after the company promoted lobbyist Andrew Levin to oversee all corporate legal operations. It is also a day before Clear Channel President John Hogan is scheduled to testify before a House Telecommunications Subcommittee hearing on indecency.
At an earlier hearing, several lawmakers suggested stiffer consequences for performers, including making them liable for fines.
Karmazin fired most of the people involved in the "Sex in St. Patrick’s Cathedral" stunt that helped ignite the indecency enforcement issue.
Topping Levin’s to-do list is burnishing Clear Channel’s image in Washington. The company also is revising contracts with on-air performers to require that they pay a portion of any indecency fines they cause the company.
The initiative comes one day after the company fired WXTV(FM) Tampa shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge, whose over-the-top routines led to a proposed $755,000 fine against Clear Channel in January.
Mays said the company also is launching a program to teach Clear Channel employees about the FCC’s rules. If a broadcast sparks an FCC indecency investigation, the on-air person responsible will be suspended pending the FCC’s ruling.
Mays reiterated Clear Channel’s call for a decency task force that would include broadcasters as well as the less-restricted cable and satellite industries to develop a media-wide voluntary response to indecency and violence in programming.
Thursday, the House Telecommunications Subcommittee holds a second hearing on broadcast indecency. The full Commerce Committee plans to approve higher indecency fines next week.