The Daily Stern bulletin: Stern fined
: MY TAKE: So Howard Stern was fined the maximum (for now) of $27,500 for one offense for describing — lock up grandma, kick the kids off the Internet, hide your eyes, get ready to burn in hell — a sex act on a toilet bowl. He was fined for one statement on one station in July 2001. Details below.
So here’s my take on this: The FCC had to back off. They had to fine him something after making such a fuss. But they didn’t want to fine him too much and be the ones to force him off the air … just yet. That’s because Stern has become a political hot potato. So they dug up an old offense from almost three years ago — it’s not to hard to find “offenses” when your definition of offensiveness is a moving target — and picked up on a complaint regarding only one station — when they could have fined him for every one of the many stations on which it aired. And they got it off their desk.
But everybody’s painted into a corner:
If the FCC had gone wacky on the fine and gone after millions, they now could be accused of trying to muzzle a Bush critic in the election year. If they hadn’t fined him after telling Viacom and the Wall Street Journal that they would, then they’d look like wimps who backed off only because Stern was now a very vocal Bush critic — thus proving the allegation that this is all, indeed, political. So they went for the minimum they could get away with. They wanted to pass the hot potato off to Congress.
Congress, meanwhile, has beaten its breasts about breasts and is about to complete legislation that is clearly and indecently unconstitutional, imposing $500,000 on not only the broadcasting company but on every performer per “offense.” And they threw in other antimedia slaps just to make them feel good, but which are so clearly over the line that they make even Michael Powell nervous. They got carried away. Look at just yesterday’s posts here: there is a building outcry about this unconstitutional outrage and perfomers’ unions are starting to scream. But our lawmakers, our national nannies, are stuck: They have to pass it. The more reasonable members of Congress may hope that the courts overturn the legislation and get them off this moral and historical hook — but by that time, it will be too late; damage will be done.
Bush has to sign the indecent indecency legislation because he said he would and because the religious right will demand it.
But Stern has already warned that the moment Bush signs it, he will leave the air. Oh, we can argue whether Infinity will let him but they can’t force him — and everyone on his show — to undertake millions of dollars of personal liability; the circumstances of his show will have changed in a way that surely breaks his contract; they’ve already announced a “zero tolerance” policy: get fined, get fired. So with Bush’s stroke of the pen, Bush gets rid of a Bush critic, even if that’s no longer what he intends. And now I don’t believe he intends it because he will only make Stern a very loud martyr.
Infinity is stuck losing a huge money maker. Clear Channel already killed its huge money maker. And together they will watch Stern make satellite an overnight success at their expense. (I’m not selling my Sirius stock but I am thinking of selling my Viacom stock.)
And Stern goes on to build a campaign against Bush — and, by then, quite a few members of Congress. And he builds a new industry and gets the credit for it. He’ll lose money and audience but he’ll also lose hassle.
All because of one chrome-plated boobie. Now doesn’t everybody feel like a complete jackass?
I’ll report what Stern says in the morning. Below is the bulletin I filed on my Treo from my church meeting and then details from the FCC filings.
: THE BULLETIN : Just got email with this. I am blogging from church again. More later. Appears the FCC is trying to backstep. AP report:
Federal regulators continued their crackdown on indecency Thursday, issuing a fine for a broadcast of the Howard Stern radio show and ruling that an expletive uttered by rock singer Bono on NBC violated broadcast standards.
The Federal Communications Commission proposed fining Infinity Broadcasting the maximum $27,500 for a Stern show broadcast on WKRK-FM in Detroit.
The FCC also overruled its staff and said that Bono’s expletive during the 2003 Golden Globe Awards program was indecent and profane, but issued no fine.
FCC Chairman Michael Powell had asked his fellow commissioners to overturn the FCC enforcement bureau’s finding.
The FCC also proposed fining a subsidiary of Clear Channel Communications $55,000 for a broadcast on two Florida radio stations where the host conducted an interview with a couple allegedly having sex..
: THE RULING: Here is a PDF of the FCC filing. Amazing how much legal mumbo jumbo can go into one dumb little potty joke. The lawyers go out of their way to sew themselves a cloak of many constitutional colors: