FCC Investigates Stern Complaint

The FCC has sent a letter of inquiry (LOI) to Infinity and Beasley Broadcasting investigating an indecency complaint against a February Howard Stern broadcast over Infinty's WXRK-FM New York, Stern's home base, and Beasley Brodcasting's WRXK-FM Fort Myers, Fla.

The complaint was filed by Stern nemesis and frequent FCC filer Jack Thompson, an attorney who followed the complaint with a letter to Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone Wednesday advising him to yank Stern.

Citing FCC Commissioner Michael Copps' November 2004 suggestion that station licenses should be in play in indecency enforcement, Thompson advised yanking Stern to "maximize the possiblity that Infinity might hold on to its various radio station licenses," saying Infinity had done nothing to "stop Stern and his coven of sleazy sociopaths."

The FCC LOI is a fairly routine fact-finding step in the process, but it has gotten Stern exercised as well--not tough to do on indecency issues--over the possibility of being thrown off the air. This time, he would probably like nothing better.

Viacom, which owns Stern distributor Infinity, has set a policy of suspending any jock who draws a proposed fine from the FCC, even before that proposal has been responded to by the company. So far, the FCC is only investigating the complaint, as it does scores of others on everything from indecency to inadequate tower lighting.

Viacom's content restrictions and penalties followed pressure from Congress on broadcasters to self-regulate post-Janet Jackson, and more specifically stem from Viacom's settling of all outstanding FCC indecency complaints earlier this yearr with a $3.5 million payment and an agreement to self-regulate.

Meanwhile, Stern, who has bridled against the company's crackdown on potentially indecent content, is itching to make the move to pay service Sirius Satellite Radio beginning in January and may see the complaint as an early out, according to The New York Post.

The offending February broadcast included the combining of porn stars and sausages with the singing of "Amazing Grace," as well as dildo golf.

Earlier Thompson complaints against Stern helped prompt Clear Channel to drop his show and the FCC to fine the company almost half a million dollars.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.