The Federal Communications Commission said on Friday that Clear Channel Communications Inc. should pay the maximum penalty of nearly $250,000 for airing a sexually explicit radio broadcast.
Clear Channel, the nation’s largest radio-station owner, should pay $247,500 – the maximum indecency fine allowable by law – for an episode of “Elliot in the Morning” that aired on stations in Washington, D.C., Virginia and Delaware, the FCC said.
A Clear Channel official said the company would investigate the situation.
“If we made a mistake, we’ll certainly live with the consequences,” said Andrew Levin, Clear Channel executive vice president for law and government affairs.
The U.S. government agency, which regulates radio, television, wire, satellite and cable communications, said Clear Channel deserved the maximum fine as it has repeatedly broadcast indecent material in the past.
The FCC proposed fines of $27,500 each for nine separate broadcasts of a show that used explicit language to discuss the talents of pornographic film star Ron Jeremy.
The three Clear Channel affiliates aired the show on the morning of March 13, 2003, and rebroadcast segments later that day, the FCC said.
For years, the agency’s commissioners have said that indecency penalties are too small to deter inappropriate behavior.
Congress has moved this year to dramatically hike the fines.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted Thursday to increase maximum fines to $500,000 per violation.
Commissioner Michael Copps, a Democrat, said the FCC should have considered revoking the stations’ broadcast licenses.
“The time has come for the Commission to send a message that it is serious about enforcing the indecency laws of our country,” Copps said in a statement. “That message has yet to go forth.”
Commissioner Kevin Martin, a Republican, voted to impose the maximum fine, but noted that Clear Channel has already agreed to pay a large fine for past indecency violations and has taken steps to prevent future incidents.
Earlier this month, Clear Channel agreed to pay $755,000 for airing indecent material by another disc jockey, Bubba the Love Sponge.
Clear Channel fired Bubba about a month after the FCC proposed the fine.
The “Elliot in the Morning” show now has a new management team and broadcasts with a seven-second delay, Levin said.
“We’ve taken steps to make sure that all the folks who work there understand what’s acceptable and what’s not,” he said.