WASHINGTON - Federal regulators have reached a record settlement with the nation's largest radio chain to resolve a number of indecency complaints against Howard Stern and other radio personalities, according to a source familiar with the deal.
The Federal Communications Commission's settlement with Clear Channel Communications is estimated at $1.75 million, according to the source, who requested anonymity in the absence of a formal announcement. That was expected as early as Wednesday.
The deal marks the largest settlement negotiated by the FCC and a broadcaster, narrowly topping the $1.7 million that Infinity Broadcasting paid in 1995 for indecency violations by Stern, the shock jock whose New York City-based radio show features sexually explicit talk and off-color humor.
The agreement would settle fines proposed by the agency against Clear Channel for remarks Stern made in an April 2003 broadcast. It also would cover 10 open investigations and about 25 other pending cases stemming from listener complaints lodged against shows on Clear Channel stations, the source said.
The settlement comes on top of a $755,000 fine that Clear Channel agreed to pay earlier this year for graphic discussions about sex and drugs aired on the "Bubba the Love Sponge" program. Clear Channel fired disc jockey Todd Clem because of the fine.
San Antonio-based Clear Channel also removed Stern from the six of its 1,200-plus stations that aired his April show, for which the FCC proposed fines of $495,000. In proposing those fines, the commission for the first time cited a broadcaster for multiple violations in a single broadcast rather than simply issuing a single fine for an entire show.
Calls to Clear Channel for comment were not immediately returned. The FCC declined comment.
Stern can still be heard on dozens of Infinity's stations.
Federal law bars radio stations and over-the-air television channels from airing references to sexual and excretory functions between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., when children may be tuning in. The rules do not apply to cable and satellite channels or satellite radio.
The maximum fine for breaking indecency laws is $27,500 for each violation, but the House has voted to raise the cap to $500,000 and to require the FCC to consider revoking a broadcaster's license after three indecency violations. Similar legislation is pending in the Senate.
The settlement was first reported by The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.