FCC mulls fine for WNEW sex stunt

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The Federal Communications Commission staff believes that the penance for
having sex in a cathedral should be between $7,000-$27,500, although that is
likely to be too little for some commissioners.

According to FCC sources, the Enforcement Bureau is recommending that the FCC
fine Infinity Broadcasting Corp.’s WNEW(FM) New York for an August 2002
broadcast of a phoned-in description of a couple allegedly having sex in St.
Patrick's Cathedral.

DJs Greg Hughes and Anthony Cumia instigated the stunt for their Opie
& Anthony
show. They were fired as a result.

The sources would not reveal the amount of the fine other than to say that
the figure is more than the minimum $7,000 typically levied for indecency
violations but less than the $27,500 maximum that a single indecency incident
can draw.

It's now up to the five commissioners to decide over the next couple of weeks
whether to accept the staff recommendation and issue a notice of apparent
liability -- the first step in the agency's complex fining procedure.

Commission and industry sources expect the staff recommendation to be
accepted, but not without at least one commissioner -- Michael Copps --
attempting to impose a stiffer penalty. The broadcast prompted public outrage in
New York and among Catholics around the country.

Officials at Viacom Inc., Infinity's parent company, had little comment on
reports of the recommendation. "After a decision is announced, Infinity intends
to formulate a response," a spokesman said.

Copps, for whom tougher enforcement of indecency rules is a priority, has
charged that FCC sanctions are little more than slaps on the wrist that do
little to stem raunchy programming on the radio dial.

He is likely to view the fine in a similar vein, and he could argue for
increasing it well beyond the $27,500-per-incident limit on the grounds that
WNEW's Aug. 16, 2002, broadcast was reaired on other stations and that similar
escapades were chronicled on previous Opie & Anthony
programs.

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