The Daily Stern

The Daily Stern

: CLEAR QUISLING: Clear Channel is settling its indecency case with the FCC. The New York Times reports they will pay $1.75 million (beating the prior record Stern/Viacom settlement of $1.70 million) on top of the $495k they agreed to pay because of Bubba the Love Sponge. The Washington Post’s report here.

Clear Channel will also admit that it aired indecent programming.


If they had balls or a spine or a soul or a brain, they’d fight this as a matter of Constitutional principle, as a defense of the First Amendment, and simply as good business. For now that they have knuckled under to the FCC, there’s no telling what’s next.

: SPEAKING OF QUISLINGS: Ernie Miller reports that John Kerry has “clarified” his stance on FCC regulation of cable content.

[Kerry spokesperson] Davis suggested that Kerry was not seeking either a crackdown or a free pass for cable and satellite, but a middle ground.

Well, that’s as clear as Clear Channel.

Man, Kerry, that fence must hurt when you plop down on it like that. Or maybe you’re used to it by now.

: AND MORE QUISLINGS: Kerry would grow balls or a spine on this issue if just one thing happened: If Hollywood rose up to defend free speech and demand that Kerry defend it — or else they wouldn’t raise money for him. But Hollywood isn’t because, of course, Hollywood has not balls, spine, heart, soul, brain, or good sense. They don’t understand that once censorship starts, it only grows.

: UPDATE: Boortz says: “There is no greater threat to free speech than the government deciding what you get to see and hear.”

  • Michael Zimmer

    Anyone know where these penalties end up? Do the funds go into the FCC’s operating budget, into some larger government pool of funds? (Or directly to Iraq?!?) I know in the big picture its not a lot of money, but just wondering anyway…

  • That’s why you had to love Larry Flynt for taking a case about very little, financially speaking, all the way to the Supreme Court. on little more that principle.
    Most media companies may file amicus briefs supporting free speech, when others are in the dock; but when their butts are on the line, they look at the costs and risks and turn tail.

  • Anonymous

    Expecting anything resembling principle out of Hollywood is a little optimistic.
    But I AM surprised that they’re not acting out of financial and creative self-interest.
    Looks like my own private Clear Channel boycott is more and more justified. Soulless, spineless bastards.

  • Consider that if they lost the case, this would give the court an opportunity to slam them *hard*, and so they could very well have ended-up worse than before, by setting a sweeping adverse precedent.
    Does anyone think that this case was a legal winner? Anyone?
    It may very well be that the best thing for free speech was to settle it – because again, that avoided a legal ruling which could have made things even worse.
    [Disclaimer: IANAL … which reads uncomfortable close to ‘anal’ :-)]

  • shark

    If they had balls or a spine or a soul or a brain, they’d fight this as a matter of Constitutional principle, as a defense of the First Amendment, and simply as good business. For now that they have knuckled under to the FCC, there’s no telling what’s next
    It’s a cost of doing business. The same as costly and oftentimes nonsensical OSHA or EPA regulations force them to spend more than they should. I don’t see you rail against businesses for accepting THOSE governmental regulations.
    And for that, they have no spine? Jeff, they’re in business to make money, not fight for your principle. I’m sure the bean counters at CC determined that this was the most cost-effective move for them.
    You want a battle fought? What are YOU doing about it?

  • Andy

    All funds, including postal revenues, go into the Treasury. Money comes from the Treasury in accordance with specific authorizations by Congress.

  • Angelos

    Sath ans shark, eventually, someone will eventually have to take on the battle.
    Might it be Infinity, who has much more to lose with Stern? Might it be a major network? That, we don’t know. I think when they attempt to regulate cable, HBO and Time Warner will start the ball rolling.
    The more these companies keep saying “Well it’s only a million bucks out of our billions in revenue,” the bolder the government will get.
    This IS a freedom of speech issue, because the regulators are overstepping their mandate, and consitutional bounds, by using the power of government to impose their personal (and politically motivated) beliefs.
    Absolutely, there should be time-slot guidelines and ratings guidelines, so people can know what they and their kids will be watching. That’s why Boobygate was wrong, and justified some of the uproar. I don’t see how CBS is blameable, but the point is, when you watch the Super Bowl, in prime time, you don’t want to see floppy tits, you just want to see violence and advertising.
    Anthing beyond that will get slapped down by the Supreme Court as soon as someone has the balls to take it there.

  • shark

    Angelos, the time that a company will litigate this is the point where it becomes an economic necessity to litigate.
    And not before.
    It’s not a matter of “balls”
    $2 million now vs. court costs of fighting the FCC presumably all the way to SCOTUS. Something tells me that even with an in-house legal dept, the costs will wildly exceed $2 million. And if they ever lost, that $2 million would be chump change compared to what they’d be fined later on.
    Balls, or financial responsibility? Hey, companies could litigate costly OSHA and EPA regs also, but they don’t…

  • Angelos

    Sure Shark, in the short term, and on a per-case basis, fiduciary duty to shareholders will trump a principled stand.
    But I think it will prove to be shortsighted. They will realize that $2 million in protection payments at a time will turn out to be more expensive than one stand.
    And just the threat of SCOTUS should be enough – it wouldn’t get that far. The FCC has no case, and eventually Powell and his buddy will have no jobs.
    There is another scenario, which will render all of our arguments moot.
    I’d be will to bet that the CEOs of the target companies have been told behind closed doors to just put up with this nonsense until November, and it will all be over.
    Pay your fine, say some contrite BS, we’ll be able to posture as crusaders of morality until the election.

  • Andy Freeman

    Once again, Jarvis is only excited about restrictions on media.
    He still doesn’t care about political speech by the rest of us.

  • The morning crew at a local Clear Channel station have been having fun with the situation. Complaining loudly about the new Clear Channel restrictions on speech, and doing what they can to circumvent them in one fashion or another. Sneaking in sly innuendo and lewd allusions whenever they get the chance.
    For example, and after being told by management not to venture down that path, the trio in question started discussing a Cosmopolitan article on the three things that could surprise a lady regarding her gent’s “endowment”.
    Such as the fact some have one that is red and bumpy.
    Then you have those men with equipment that is (to quote Chainsaw), “Thick, bumpy, and pierced.”
    As you can see, the Spirit of Snark lives on in American radio.

  • Angelos

    From an article in Mother Jones:
    While Clear Channel chose to go along with the FCC, its main competitor has vowed to fight the fines. According to the Chicago Tribune, Infinity Broadcasting – which paid a then-record $1.7 million settlement in 1995 – has not yet paid any FCC fines dating back to 2000, prompting a March 12 forfeiture penalty from the FCC. As John Dunbar of the Center for Public Integrity told the Tribune, “You really have two very different corporate cultures at work here. On one hand, you’re seeing Infinity fight, and on the other, you’re seeing Clear Channel settle.”
    Smaller radio groups like Entercom Communications and Emmis Communications are also appealing fines, and a pending lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union challenges the FCC on the grounds that the commission has overstepped its bounds. So while the Clear Channel chapter is closed for now, the story of the FCC crackdown is far from over.