Conglom sues Stern

Clear Channel claims right to pull show from stations

NEW YORK — Radio giant Clear Channel on Wednesday filed a $3 million countersuit against Howard Stern and Viacom’s Infinity Broadcasting East, saying it should be reimbursed for indecency fines stemming from Stern’s raunchy morning radio show.

Clear Channel said it had every right to pull Stern’s show from six of its stations in late February after Stern and Infinity, which distributes the program, refused to guarantee Stern would adhere to Federal Communications Commission rules.

“We simply weren’t willing to put the future of our radio station licenses in the hands of Mr. Stern or Infinity,” Clear Channel chief legal officer Andy Levin said. “Fortunately, our contract doesn’t require us to do that.”

But Stern and Infinity said just the opposite when they slapped Clear Channel with a $10 million breach-of-contract suit three weeks ago.

In that suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Stern and Infinity claim Clear Channel violated license agreements when it took Stern’s show off the air in San Diego; Pittsburgh; Orlando, Fla.; Miami; Rochester, N.Y.; and Louisville, Ky.

Just before filing its suit against Clear Channel, Infinity — which owns radio stations in most top markets — announced it was putting Stern back on the air on its own stations in five of the six markets where he got the boot.

Move by Infinity came not long after Clear Channel agreed to pay a record $1.75 million in FCC fines to resolve indecency complaints against Stern and other radio hosts.

In filing the countersuit, Levin said Clear Channel’s contract with Infinity and Stern’s management company, One Twelve, required the show comply with federal law and all FCC regulations.

Contract also stipulated that Clear Channel couldn’t alter the show in any way. That left Clear Channel powerless to protect itself against FCC action, Levin said.

“The radio show was pulled because Mr. Stern and Infinity refused to assure us that future programs would conform to the law,” Levin said. “That was a key term in the agreement, and we gave them every opportunity to make good on their word before we permanently retired the show.”

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