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Clear Channel Settlement Includes Delays

Radio giant Clear Channel Communications Inc. Wednesday agreed to pay $1.75 million to the U.S. Treasury to settle three proposed fines for indecency broadcasts and terminate another 10 open Federal Communications Commission investigations of complaints about raunchy Clear Channel broadcasts.

But the settlement went beyond money. The company also had to promise to suspend employees  accused by the FCC of violating FCC indecency standards, and to add delays to its broadcasts, as well as to institute training programs.

As part of the settlement the FCC also agreed not to launch investigations into another 27 pending indecency complaints.

The fine is the largest single indecency fine in FCC history, but only by a smidge.

Infinity Radio entered into a similar deal in 1995--for $50,000 less. Clear Channel also agreed to carry out a compliance program to ensure DJs and other on-air talent abide by the FCC's anti-indecency rules.

The settlement includes training for on-air personalities and employees making programming decisions, and adding time delays to broadcasts. Also, employees accused of violating commission rules will be suspended and, if ultimately found in violation, terminated.

Democratic Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein argued that the commission should have investigated all outstanding complaints before reaching a settlement. But Chairman Michael Powell said getting Clear Channel to admit guilt and agree to a payment saves "the laborious and expensive process of prosecuting these actions in court."

The broadcasts for which Clear Channel already faced proposed fines included a $495,000 levy for an April 2003 Stern broadcast that aired on six Clear Channel stations in which talk about anal sex was punctuated by farting sounds.

Clear Channel stopped syndicating Stern after the fine was proposed and made no bones about the reason.  "The Congress and the FCC are even beginning to look at revoking station licensee. That's a risk we're just not willing to take," said company President John Hogan when Stern was pulled for good April 8.

In addition there was a $755,000 fine for various routines by Tampa DJ Todd "Bubba the Love Sponge" Clem, including a parody with cartoon characters talking about sex and a breast-implant-surgery contest. An Elliot in the Morning bit on Washington’s WWDC(FM) and two other stations, during which a female caller said on the air that she regularly masturbated to unlikely porn star Ron Jeremy’s sex scenes, garnered a $247,000 proposed fine.