Like Clear Channel did earlier this year, Emmis has settled all of its outstanding indecency fines, investigations and complaints by writing a check to the U.S. Treasury. Today’s $300,000 consent decree with the FCC not only resolves three separate forfeiture orders for Mancow’s Morning Madhouse on WKQX/Chicago, it also dismisses all indecency-related Enforcement Bureau investigations and third party complaints against Emmis. As part of the agreement, the company admits that some of the material it broadcast was indecent. However, no indecency fines, inquiries, or complaints dated prior to the consent decree can be held against the company when it comes to renewing, applying for, or transferring a station license.
One of the Mancow fines resolved by the settlement is for broadcasts that are now four years old - a $14,000 forfeiture order released on January 8, 2002 for a pair of shows dating back to 2000. The deal also gets Emmis off the hook for a $21,000 forfeiture order released on November 1, 2002 for three Mancow broadcasts in 2001; and a $7,000 forfeiture order released on February 18, 2004 for a March 12, 2001 Mancow show.
There's an important difference between the Emmis deal and Clear Channel's record-shattering $1.75 million consent decree. With Clear Channel, the FCC had not even begun to investigate some of the pending complaints or even sought information from the company about them. Those uninvestigated complaints numbered in the dozens. With Emmis, the Commission had at least taken initial action on all pending complaints.
That's something crusadin' Commissioner Michael Copps was able to crow about in today's announcement. But Copps also said he's troubled "about the effect of today's decision on the Commission's license renewal process. The totality of a broadcaster's record is pertinent and should be considered when licenses are renewed. Today's decision takes an entire part of the record off the table."
Like Clear Channel and other companies, Emmis this year adopted a zero-tolerance indecency policy and training program. In signing the consent decree, Emmis agreed to continue to enforce that policy and maintain the training program.
"Earlier this year we adopted an aggressive policy to ensure that Emmis provides quality, compelling, on-air content that conforms to decency standards," Emmis President/CEO Jeff Smulyan said. "We announced a zero tolerance policy and are taking extraordinary steps to educate our on-air employees and program directors. The consent decree settles all pending indecency-related issues, and allows us to move forward."