FCC Investigating February Howard Stern Broadcast
August 23, 2005

Howard Stern said on his show last Wednesday (8/17) that he had "heard a rumor" the FCC would be dropping another fine on him before he would be able to get out the door to Sirius Satellite Radio.

"They've come up with some sort of fine or something, or some sort of Notice of Apparent Liability, they're after me again," said Stern. "I don't care how many times, as long as they don't come after me personally."

FMQB has learned that the FCC's Enforcement Bureau is indeed investigating an early February broadcast in which allegedly indecent material was aired on The Howard Stern Show. The complaint, submitted by Florida-based decency crusader Jack Thompson, was filed against Beasley Broadcast Group’s WRXK/Ft. Myers and Infinity Broadcasting’s WXRK/New York.

Specifically, the FCC is looking into material aired on the February 4, 2005 broadcast at approximately 8:55 a.m. in which The Stern Show was in the midst of the Stupid Bowl, a contest that featured women golfing with strap-on dildos on their foreheads, followed by the contestants attempting to sing "Amazing Grace" with a four-inch sausage down their throats.

In his complaint, Thompson wrote: "Porn stars were using dildos in the described fashion, among the sexual banter, and they were then allowing sausages to be stuffed down their throats, in a simulation of fellatio, while trying to sing, despite the gagging, 'Amazing Grace.'"

In a follow-up letter to the FCC, Thompson has asked that the investigation "expand to include each and every radio station that aired any of the particular Stern programs on the dates which are currently under investigation," providing the FCC with a list of all current affiliates of The Howard Stern Show.

Infinity is required to respond within ten business days of the FCC's August 15 letter. Should this complaint result in a Notice of Apparent Liability being issued, it could mean the end for Stern and company until they reappear at Sirius due to the $3.5 million Consent Decree Viacom agreed to on November 23, 2004.

Contained within the Consent Decree was a provision stating: "If a Viacom-owned station receives a Notice of Apparent Liability for a broadcast occurring after the Effective Date which relates to violation of the Indecency Laws, all employees airing and/or materially participating in the decision to air such material will be suspended and an investigation will immediately be undertaken by Viacom."

Shortly after the Decree was signed, FMQB warned this scenario might be how The Stern Show's run on terrestrial radio could end, as the previously mentioned provision essentially means if a NAL were to be issued regarding Stern that involved a Viacom property, it would mean he would be suspended from the airwaves and be sidelined until the investigation was concluded.

The current complaint the FCC is investigating meets those requirements.

Should a Notice of Apparent Liability lead to a Forfeiture Order, all participating offenders in the decision to air the material deemed indecent by the FCC would be "subject to further disciplinary action up to and including termination."

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Mark Adams
San Francisco

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