Clear Channel Fined For Indecency

Cory Kincaid
SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Just after calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch an industry-wide "Local Values Task Force" to control obscenity on the airwaves, the nation's largest radio station owner got slammed with a $715,000 fine.

The FCC claims Clear Channel aired a "sexually explicit radio show" on four of its stations, 26 times.

The FCC is reportedly fining Clear Channel $27,000 for each of the "Bubba the Love Sponge" shows that aired and crossed the line between acceptable radio content and material that is patently offensive, under the FCC terms.

"Bubba" is a syndicated morning program that is geared toward a male audience and claims to take a "realistic view on life" when it comes to news, contemporary society, and public figures.

The FCC's action against Clear Channel is the second largest fine to date, after a 1995 fine for $1.7 million against Infinity Broadcasting.

Just this week, Clear Channel called on the FCC to develop "indecency guidelines" for the television, radio, cable and satellite industries. Clear Channel is gunning for the media industry to claim more responsibility in eliminating "indecent" or sexually explicit material from the airwaves.

Clear Channel contends that the FCC is applying indecency standards on a case-by-case basis and is creating confusion and non-conformity among many media outlets.

"We believe the time has come for every sector of the media to join together and develop consistent standards that are in tune with local community values," said Mark Mays, president of Clear Channel. "While the government's role is important in this area, there are limits established by the First Amendment to our Constitution," Mays said. "The task of developing guidelines about what is and what is not appropriate is the job of every one of us that delivers content into the home."

The FCC has been on a push recently to create more stringent indecency regulations for the airwaves.

FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell has asked Congress to increase the penalty for broadcasters "by at least tenfold," and a bill is currently being rushed to the House of Representatives that would ban a list of "profane" words related to excrement, the sex act, urine, and parts of the body, as being indecent. Only cable television would be exempt from the ban.

"Indecency is not a simple concept. Congress, the FCC, and the courts all have struggled to define it for years," continued Mays. "However, we believe all content providers have a responsibility to shield our audiences from indecent programming."

The FCC is also fining San Francisco's KRON Channel 4 $27,500 for an interview with the two performers behind "Puppetry of the Penis," during which one of the performers exposed himself to television viewers.

Clear Channel had been given 30 days to pay the FCC's proposed fine or file an appeal.