FCC Moves on Indecency Cases

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The Federal Communications Commission’s crackdown on broadcast indecency continued in full force Friday, as the commission refused Infinity Radio’s request to reduce the $27,500 fine imposed in December against WKRK-FM Detroit’s Deminski & Doyle show.

At the moment, $27,500 is the maximum that can be charged for a single violation on a single station. With hundreds of thousand in fines pending for that and other raunchy broadcasts, Infinity officials would only say 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 a sex stunt at St. Patrick’s Cathedral by DJs Opie and Anthony. The St. Pat’s broadcast aired on multiple stations.

If Infinity goes to court, 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.

Congress and the FCC are also moving on other fronts to rein in indecent broadcasts. 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.

The FCC is 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 March 1, 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***ing brilliant.") The FCC also will uphold its decision not to fine NBC O&Os for the incident.

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.

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