WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission slapped Viacom-owned Infinity Broadcasting with a $357,000 fine Thursday for indecent content broadcast on New York WNEW’s “Opie & Anthony Show” last year.
In its public notice, the FCC proposed the maximum fine allowed under current law because it said the show “willfully and repeatedly” broadcast indecent material and because so many Infinity employees and managers were involved in planning to air the content.
The FCC received more than 500 complaints about an Aug. 15, 2002 broadcast of the show titled “Sex for Sam,” which involved participants having sex in “risky locations” throughout New York City, including St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a zoo, Rockefeller Center, FAO Schwartz and the Disney Store.
The goal of the show’s contest was for each participating couple to earn the maximum number of points by having sex in as many of the places the station suggested as possible. The agency said the material aired met the indecency definition because the program included “repeated, graphic and explicit sexual descriptions designed to shock, pander and titillate listeners.”
The fine passed the agency on a bipartisan vote with only Democratic commissioner Michael Copps dissenting because he did not believe the fine went far enough. Calling the fine a “slap on the wrist,” Copps said he wants the agency to hold a hearing to revoke WNEW’s broadcast license and that of another Infinity station that has also aired indecent content.
“Infinity/Viacom could pay this entire fine by tacking just one commercial onto one of its primetime TV shows and probably pocket a profit to boot,” Copps said in his dissent. “Some punishment!”
Copps also recalled previous fines imposed on Infinity and on the “Opie & Anthony Show,” specifically, and the company’s promises to prevent indecent broadcasts in the future. He complained that the FCC is simply giving Infinity one more chance.
“When, I ask, will this end?” he pondered.
Republican Commissioner Kevin Martin, who also voted no, argued that the agency should have levied a much larger fine.
“We could have found that each time the show’s hosts started talking about an indecent topic or had a separate distinct conversation, the ensuing conversation constituted a separate violation,” he noted.