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FCC Fixing To Fine Clear Channel on Indecency

A Howard Stern segment about anal sex that was punctuated with farting sounds has the country’s largest radio station group facing a $495,000 fine from the feds.

Thursday the FCC proposed to hit each of the six Clear Channel FM stations that aired syndicated Stern shows with the maximum fine for three separate violations during the April 9, 2003 broadcast. The FCC is still reviewing the broadcast and could impose sanctions on stations owned by Stern’s syndicator Infinity Radio, as well.

If, after Clear Channel’s response, commissioners uphold the decision, the penalty would be the first by the FCC using its recently proclaimed authority to fine stations for multiple violations during a single broadcast.

Each station was dinged with a $27,500 fine for three passages FCC commissioners found objectionable, which included cast member Jon’s assertion that he and his wife "have anal every other time" they have sex. Throughout the program, references to anal sex were accompanied by, in the FCC’s words, "sound effects of flatulence and evacuation."

The show also touched on oral sex when, later in the segment, Stern professed revulsion at the thought of an obese man performing oral sex on a woman.

Finally the commissioners ruled that Stern’s show crossed the line with a bit about "Sphincterine," a purported deodorant that alleviates "swamp ass," thus making women more willing to perform oral sex.

Minutes before the proposed fine was made public, Clear Channel announced it would permanently sever its relationship with Stern’s morning drive-time show.

"Mr. Stern’s show has created a great liability for us and other broadcasters who air it," says John Hogan, president and CEO of Clear Channel Radio. "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."

Stations facing the fines are WBGG Ft. Lauderdale and WTKS Cocoa Beach in Florida; WTFX Louisville, Ky.; KIOZ San Diego; WNVE Honeoye Falls, N.Y.; and WXDX Pittsburgh.

Stern has repeatedly complained on the air that several ongoing investigations of his programs are a politically motivated effort to drive him from the air. Stern said the FCC is acting at the behest of a Bush administration trying to silence Stern’s attacks against the war in Iraq. "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.,’" he said referring to FCC Chairman Michael Powell, son of Secretary of State Colin Powell.

"It is pretty shocking that governmental interference into our rights and free speech takes place in the U.S. It’s hard to reconcile this with the ‘land of the free’ and the ‘home of the brave’. 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."