Zero tolerance policy gets mixed reviews - East Valley Tribune: Business

Zero tolerance policy gets mixed reviews

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Posted: Saturday, February 28, 2004 6:42 am | Updated: 5:06 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Valley radio personalities and their listeners had mixed reviews Thursday of Clear Channel Communication’s new zero-tolerance policy designed to keep indecent content off the airwaves.

Clear Channel, which operates eight Valley stations and approximately 1,200 nationwide, announced it would automatically suspend anyone the FCC alleges has violated indecency rules on the air.

Already this week, there have been two high-profile casualties.

On Wednesday, Clear Channel suspended broadcast of Howard Stern’s syndicated morning show — one of the highest-rated shows in nearly every major U.S. market — from six of its stations that carried it.

Earlier this week, the radio giant fired controversial Florida ‘‘shock jock’’ Bubba the Love Sponge, who had been fined a record $755,000 by the FCC for sexually explicit comments on his popular morning show.

Clear Channel employees who were contacted Thursday said they had been instructed not to discuss the policy with the media.

"It’s obvious that (Clear Channel’s decision) stems from the FCC and being afraid of those fines,’’ said Mark Garcia, who hosts ‘‘MG’s Morning Madhouse’’ on KKFR (92.3 FM). "The bottom line is that nobody wants to lose money and nobody wants to be penalized for content that you have control over.’’

KKFR is one of four Valley stations owned by Emmis Communications, which is developing a zero-tolerance policy of its own.

"Doing mornings and being a morning guy, sometimes it’s hard to draw the line,’’ Garcia said. ‘‘When you are in the situation of entertaining and competing, sometimes there are gray areas and sometimes pushing the envelope goes too far.’’

John Holmberg, who hosts the ‘‘Morning Sickness’’ show on Sandusky-owned KUPD (97.9 FM), said his company holds frequent meetings about indecency, but hasn’t adopted a zero-tolerance policy yet.

"We’ve had talks lately about how the microscope is out and people are looking,’’ he said. "I don’t think we do anything too insanely over the top. . . . It’s humor-based and, hopefully, people will understand that.’’

Holmberg said he’d be very careful if he worked for a Clear Channel station.

"I would go into work thinking, ‘What’s over the edge of today,’ ’’ he says.

"It would be the death of what I do and what I enjoy because I would feel like I would be holding back a lot of the time.’’

Leah Miller, associate faculty and professional adviser for the ASU’s student-operated KASC (1260 AM), instructs students to follow FCC guidelines, even though KASC is not an FCC-licensed station.

"We tell them, ‘If you actually have to think about it, don’t do it,’’’ she says. ‘‘We also use the ‘after 10 o’clock policy,’ where things that will be more risque will be played after 10 p.m. And we don’t play songs with cuss words. We don’t want people complaining.’’

Miller, who previously hosted her own show on KZON (101.5 FM), which now carries Howard Stern’s show in the Valley, says that given a string of recent events — including U2 singer Bono using profanity during the nationally televised Golden Globe Awards and Janet Jackson’s breastbaring during the Super Bowl halftime show — a zero-tolerance policy is necessary.

"Things have really been pushed to the limit, and there has to be some responsibility held,’’ she says.

"I have heard songs that have made me blush. . . . I’m sure those who push the limit are definitely feeling censored but to me a good talent can definitely be clever and be good without using indecent words. I think that makes them more talented.’’

On the ASU campus Thursday, students were quick to criticize Clear Channel’s actions.

"It doesn’t bother me if people use certain vocabulary to express an opinion,’’ said Shannon Cook, 21, of Ahwatukee Foothills.

"You have a lot of channels and you can change the channel,’’ Cook added. "Howard Stern is only on one station in the Valley.’’

William Pitts said Clear Channel has every right to dictate what they want to put on their airwaves.

"But to take someone off their air for making one little mistake is basically finding them guilty without putting them on trial,’’ said Pitts, 21, of Tempe.

Listeners who are offended by what they hear on the radio should change stations or turn it off, KUPD’s Holmberg said.

"If you don’t like what you’re hearing, why are you listening to it?’’ he asked. "In the long run, it’s just a radio show.’’

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