Howard Stern Suspended

Gretchen Gallen
SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Clear Channel Communications, long under the microscope of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), took it in the teeth this week and was forced to suspend the Howard Stern radio show over allegations of indecency after 'shock jock" Stern interviewed Rick Solomon, the ex-boyfriend of Paris Hilton and co-owner of the famous Hilton sex tape.

The FCC has been on the indecency warpath for quite some time and even prior to the Janet Jackson nipple-bearing incident, the agency was considering ways to increase indecency fines against media companies, in addition to putting a ban on sexually explicit words.

Indecency fines typically cost media outlets $27,000 per show, although the FCC and congress are pushing to increase that number to $275,000 per incident.

FCC indecency rules relate to all references to sexual and excretory functions aired between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., the Associated Press reports. The rules don't apply to cable and satellite channels and satellite radio.

Following what is now popularly known as "Nipplegate," the FCC threatened to sue Viacom, the parent company of ABC, $27,500 for each of its 200 affiliate stations that aired the breast bearing stunt.

The Howard Stern show is syndicated by Infinity Broadcasting, a unit of Viacom.

Viacom's Infinity Broadcasting unit was fined $357,500 three months ago for indecency. In 1995, Infinity Broadcasting paid a total of $1.7 million in fines related to the Howard Stern show, the Associated Press reports.

But today's move to take Stern off the air is one of the more dramatic measures the FCC has so far taken in its push to clean up the airwaves.

Clear Channel Radio, a unit of Clear Channel Communications Inc., claims that Stern will be off the air indefinitely while it "assesses the content of his show."

John Hogan, president and CEO of Clear Channel Radio, said in a statement: "Clear Channel drew a line in the sand today with regard to protecting our listeners from indecent content and Howard Stern's show blew right through it. It [the Solomon show] was vulgar, offensive, and insulting, not just to women and African Americans but to anyone with a sense of common decency."

The National Association of Broadcasters is scheduled to hold a conference on indecency sometime next month.