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In 1995, Infinity Broadcasting agreed to settle FCC claims against Stern in a $1.7 million dollar settlement. By 2004, according to the Center for Public Integrity, the FCC had levied over $3.95 million in fines against indecency on the radio, and half of that total was levied against Stern and Infinity. Still further, the FCC has issued over $1.9 million in fines to shows syndicating the Stern program (Dunbar, 2004).
Perhaps Stern's most notable infraction was the 2004 fines, totaling $495,000 against 18 Clear Channel stations airing a single program of the Howard Stern Show. The fines were the first on record by the FCC citing more than one infraction of FCC regulations during a single show. Clear Channel Communications had pulled the Stern show from six stations in February of that year, after complaints of a show involving sexual descriptions and racist remarks. The sexual content cited in the infraction by the FCC involved Stern and his staff discussing their own sexual practices and the use of sexually enhancing creams. A total of 18 violations were noted in the single airing of the show (Kaplan, 2004).
As a result, Clear Channel radio elected to fire Howard Stern. According to the company, the February 24 violations cited went against the company's new zero tolerance decency standards, brought about following new FCC regulations. Additionally, the FCC had fined Clear Channel another $27,500 in fines regarding yet another sexual indecency citation (Kaplan, 2004).
Stern, on the other hand, states that his firing was a result of his criticisms of Bush and the FCC on public radio waves. According to Clear Channel, the offense which resulted in fines and his dismissal was the use of the word "nigger" on the show. Stern notes that this word had been uttered countless times, and never resulted in actions against him. Stern has noted that in his opinion, the FCC fines are actually aimed at stopping Infinity Broadcasting, the parent company, from expanding its business, since FCC suits often halt all activities of the company its fines are levied against. As a result, Viacom, Infinity's owner, would also suffer losses in both expansion as well as advertising. Since Viacom owns such companies as the CBS networks and MTV, it would be likely they would not continue to broadcast Stern, in an effort to retain their business (Kaplan, 2004).
In response to the constant attention and censorship, Stern signed a contract with the satellite service SIRUS, for a total of $500 million dollars over five years. The contract takes effect on January 1, 2006, and will allow Stern to broadcast his show without the FCC censorship, or the station restrictions. Further, the satellite company has agreed to broadcast his show on two channels, one of which will be available at extra charge to subscribers, and will contain his full, unedited show (Wikipedia, 2004).
There can be no question that Howard Stern has been the voice of liberalists nationwide since his broadcast career began. Despised by religious and social groups, yet adored by fans, Stern's career has been one of constant controversy. His fights with the FCC, as well as with the station who have played him throughout the years, have simply added to his reputation as a fighter against the system. Whether one enjoys his work, or simply despises him, Howard Stern is certainly one of the most discusses radio personalities of all time. While his move to satellite radio may end his fights with the FCC, there can be no doubt that arguments over the content of his broadcasts will continue.
Associated Press. (2004, June 30). Howard Stern announces nine new markets. USA Today, 18.
Dauidson, S. (1999). Censoring rock and rap music. Westport, C.T.: Greenwood Press.
Dunbar, M. (2004, April 9). Indecency on the air: shock-radio jock Howard Stern remains 'King of All Fines'. Well Connected. Retrieved April 29, 2005 from Center for Public Integrity. Web site: http://www.publicintegrity.org/telecom/report.aspx?aid=239&sid=200.
Foerstel, H. (1997). Free expression and censorship in America: an encyclopedia. Westport, C.T.: Greenwood Press.
Kaplan, P. (2004, April 8). Clear channel dumps Stern after FCC proposes fine. Forbes, 16-21.
Kurtz, H. (1997). Hot air: All talk, all the time. New York:…[continue]
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