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Clear Channel yanks Stern from 6 stations

Radio personality decries 'witch hunt'

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The FCC has levied a half-million-dollar fine against the nation's largest radio chain for airing a Howard Stern show regulators call indecent. Stern is labeling it a 'witch hunt.'
Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
Louisville (Kentucky)
Howard Stern
Clear Channel Communications Incorporated

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Howard Stern was permanently booted Thursday from six stations owned by Clear Channel Communications, the nation's largest radio chain, after the Federal Communications Commission announced that it would impose a $495,000 fine on the company for indecent content aired on his show.

Stern, in a statement posted on his Web site, said he was not surprised by Clear Channel's decision to drop his program, and he accused the FCC of conducting a "McCarthy-type witch hunt."

"It is pretty shocking that governmental interference into our rights and free speech takes place in the U.S.," Stern said. "It's hard to reconcile this with the 'land of the free' and the 'home of the brave.'"

The FCC Thursday proposed a $495,000 fine for Clear Channel, imposing the maximum fine of $27,500 for each of 18 violations of federal decency rules.

John Hogan, president and CEO of Clear Channel Radio, said Stern's show was dropped because it "has created a great liability for us and other broadcasters who air it."

"The Congress and the FCC are even beginning to look at revoking station licenses. That's a risk we're just not willing to take," he said in a written statement.

In February, Clear Channel -- shortly after adopting a "zero-tolerance" policy for indecent content -- yanked the Stern show from its six stations that aired it, concerned the program's often sexually explicit and graphic content might run afoul of the FCC.

Hogan said the company sought assurances from Stern's syndicator, Infinity Broadcasting, that steps would be taken to change his show to bring it into compliance with FCC rules, but received none.

"Unfortunately, the FCC's latest action, combined with deafening silence from the Stern show on their future plans to comply with the law, leave us no choice but to abandon the program for good," he said.

The six Clear Channel stations are located in Fort Lauderdale and Cocoa Beach, Florida; Louisville, Kentucky; San Diego; Honeoye Falls, New York, which is near Rochester; and Pittsburgh. The company's decision will not affect broadcast of Stern's show on stations owned by other broadcasters.

Stern's show is still broadcast on dozens of stations around the country, including 35 owned by Infinity Broadcasting. Infinity says it has no plans to drop the show.

The FCC and members of Congress have recently focused increased attention on the issue of broadcast indecency, fueled in part by a controversy during the Super Bowl when Janet Jackson's breast was briefly bared on CBS.

Stern charged that those campaigning against broadcast indecency "are expressing and imposing their opinions and rights to tell us all who and what we may listen to and watch, and how we should think about our lives."

But FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein said in a written statement that "stepped-up actions like those we take today will convince broadcasters that they cannot ignore their responsibility to serve the public interest and to avoid the broadcast of indecent material over the public airwaves."

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