The “King of All Media” has been dethroned. The United States Government and the FCC (Federal Communication Commission) targeted radio jock Howard Stern and Clear Channel Communications in their recent efforts to clean up the airwaves and in the past few weeks finally managed to get him removed from six national public radio stations. The FCC fined Clear Channel Communications and the Howard Stern Show $495,000 for a sexually explicit broadcast. Clear Channel dropped Stern’s show from a half dozen major radio stations permanently. The decision to remove Stern was made by Clear Channel executives out of fear of being delicensed.
As part of its stepped-up enforcement of indecency regulations, a unanimous FCC fined Clear Channel Communications the maximum $27,500 for each of 18 alleged violations. Regulators departed from their norm by citing Clear Channel for multiple violations in a single broadcast rather than simply issuing a single fine for an entire show.
The Howard Stern show has a long track record with the FCC. “My days are numbered,” Stern warned his audience. Stern was given a chance to clean up his act on radio and television but never did. Numerous fines were issued and paid by Clear Channel for Stern’s antics; however, this was the last straw. Warnings were issued before the decision was made and Stern chose to argue with the powerful executives oftentimes on the air over what he is and is not allowed to do on his show.
Stern’s show has created a great liability for us and other broadcasters who air it. Congress and the FCC are even beginning to look at revoking station licenses. “That’s a risk we are just not willing to take,” said Clear Channel President and CEO John Hogan.
Hogan later added, “We had hoped to return Mr. Stern’s show to the air free from indecent content. Unfortunately, the FCC’s latest action, combined with deafening silence from the Stern show on their future plans to comply with the law, leaves us no choice but to abandon the program for good.”
In a statement posted on his Web site, Stern characterized the fine as furtherance of a “witch hunt” against him by the Bush administration, which he says is punishing him for his criticism of the president. “This is not a surprise. This is a follow up to the McCarthy type witch hunt’ of the administration and the activities of this group of presidential appointees in the FCC, led by Colin Powell Jr. and his band of players.”
“They and others [a senator from Missouri and a congress-woman from New Mexico] are expressing and imposing their opinions and rights to tell us all who and what we may listen to a watch and how we should think about our lives.”
“It’s hard to reconcile this with the ‘land of the free’ and the home of the brave,’ he wrote. “I’m sure what’s next is the removal of ‘dirty pictures’ like the 20th century German exhibit in a New York City Museum and the erotic literature in our libraries; they too will fall into their category of ‘evil’ as well.”
Howard Stern is not going down without a fight. The syndicated morning man has been attacking those he feels are his oppressors – Clear Channel, the FCC and the Bush Administration. Stern had even pondered the idea of a Million Moron March on Washington with a legion of his faithful fans. “Can you imagine CNN having to cover this and putting the Million Moron March up on the screen?” he joked when the idea was hatched.
“My days here are numbered because I dared to speak out against the Bush administration and say that the religious agenda of George W. Bush concerning stem cell research and gay marriage is wrong,” Stern continued. “And that what he is doing with the FCC is pushing this religious agenda. And also the fact that the guy takes more vacation than any president ever. It’s time for him to leave. Having said that pushed me off the air in six markets.”
Clear Channel is not the only broadcasting company fed up with Stern and other shock jocks. Infinity, a Viacom-owned broadcasting corporation once had to settle with the FCC for $1.7 million for complaints of Stern’s show in 1995. Infinity owns 18 of the 40 stations Stern’s shows are aired. Infinity has also announced new guidelines for what they believe is indecent radio and also has conformed to new FCC regulations.