Clear Channel is expected to pay the FCC $1.7 million in fines for a Howard Stern broadcast that involved Rick Solomon, the former lover of hotel heiress Paris Hilton, and co-owner of the now-famous sex tape.
The FCC and San Antonio, Texas-based Clear Channel, one of the largest radio and television companies in the world, have been in talks for months over the show that has compounded an already rocky relationship and raised the ire of free speech advocates across the nation.
"Mr. Stern's show has created a great liability for us and other broadcasters who air it," said John Hogan, president and CEO of Clear Channel. "The Congress and the FCC are even beginning to look at revoking station licenses. That's a risk we're just not willing to take."
Stern had previously cost Infinity Broadcasting a similarly hefty multimillion dollar fine in 1995 for a different radio broadcast deemed indecent by the FCC. Infinity is owned by Viacom Inc. and syndicates the Howard Stern show in 35 cities.
In paying the fine, Clear Channel will be off the hook for all charges of indecency lodged against it, including on-air remarks made by Stern and complaints filed through the FCC that could have potentially become additional fines.
Clear Channel has since yanked the Stern show from six markets and terminated its relationship with the shock jock. Clear Channel also implemented a "zero tolerance" policy for all on-air performers called the Responsible Broadcasting Initiative, which includes employee training and strict disciplinary action against FCC violators.
Stern's response Wednesday to Clear Channel's FCC settlement was outrage.
"It's a $2 million payoff for what?" Stern was quoted as saying. "It is just sickening to me this Clear Channel. They are a sickening company. They don't pay their bills. They're sickening cowards. I listen to this and I just want to friggin throw-up."