In a move that had been expected (Daily Variety, Oct. 22), the Federal Communications Commission yesterday stepped up its war on shock jock Howard Stern by proposing a $ 105,000 fine against KLSX-FM for allegedly airing indecent material from Stern’s syndicated radio show.
The proposed forfeiture–the largest in FCC history–stems from 12 broadcasts on Stern’s show from Oct. 30 to Dec. 6 in 1991.
Though KLSX was the only station cited yesterday by the FCC, it seems likely that radio outlets carrying the Stern show in New York, Philadelphia, D.C., and an expanding list of other markets may also be hit with similar fines. “I would expect the FCC will inquire as to whether the same programs airedin other markets,” said FCC staffer Robert Ratcliffe.
In a press release, the FCC said the excerpts from Stern’s program “are indecent in that they contain language that describes sexual and excretory activities and organs in patently offensive terms. Moreover, because the material aired at times when there was a reasonable risk that children may have been in the audience, it is legally actionable.”
Typically, an FCC indecency violation prompts a fine of no more than $ 12,500 . However, the commission said that the “egregious nature of the material, as well as the substantial number of days on which such indecent material was broadcast, severely aggravate the violation.”
Yesterday’s commission action came in the form of a “notice of apparent liability” against Greater Los Angeles Radio, the licensee of KLSX. The licensee is a subsidiary of Greater Media Inc., a firm based in East Brunswick, N.J.
Barbara Burns, associate general counsel for Greater Media, said last night the FCC appears to be proposing fines for material that has “never been found to be indecent in the past.”
Burns said it is “definitely a possibility” that Greater Media will challenge the FCC action. “We need to look at all the material first,” she said.
Greater Media has 30 days to decide whether to either pay the fine or argue that it should not be imposed or reduced.
If Greater Media decides not to fork over the coin, the FCC would be forced to ask the U.S. Dept. of Justice to prosecute the case.
Justice just recently launched its first-ever bid to collect an FCC indecency fine. Case involved alleged indecent broadcasts on WLUP-AM, Chicago, for which the commission levied a $ 6,000 fine on licensee Evergreen Media Corp. of Chicago.