Howard Stern broadcasts draw FCC scrutiny, fines

November 03, 1992|By Steve McKerrow | Steve McKerrow,Staff Writer

The "indecent" language for which radio personality Howard Stern was cited by the Federal Communications Commission last week may lead to additional fines because it was heard on other stations -- including one in Baltimore.

Three stations of the Infinity Broadcasting network, in New York, Philadelphia and Washington, each received an FCC inquiry late last week asking whether they had carried the programs for which Los Angeles station KLSX-FM was fined $105,000.

The FCC said the offensive material aired on 12 separate days between Oct. 30 and Dec. 6 of 1990.

Among the stations receiving the FCC letter was WJFK-AM/FM of Washington, whose signal is simulcast in Baltimore from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily over frequency AM 1300, general manager Ken Stevens said yesterday. "They wanted to know if we carried the same programs," he said. And he acknowledged "a substantial probability" that Baltimore listeners could have heard Stern's alleged transgressions.

Attorney Steve Lerman in Washington said yesterday that Infinity Broadcasting would formally respond to the FCC inquiries Thursday or Friday. He also said the notice of the FCC's fine, the largest ever levied for indecency on the air, did not clarify specific infractions.

In its citation of the Los Angeles station, which airs Mr. Stern's show partly on a tape-delay basis because of the three-hour time zone difference, the FCC included a transcript.

The letter said: "We believe that the subject excerpts from 'The Howard Stern Show' are indecent in that they contain language that describes sexual and excretory activities and organs in patently offensive terms."

But, said Mr. Lerman yesterday, "they haven't isolated those passages they believe to be offensive." Nor has the FCC discussed how the material specifically violates its statutes on indecency, he said.

Following the citation last week, Mel Karmazin, president of Infinity Broadcasting, was quoted as calling the fine unfair. He said the material of Mr. Stern's shows often is the same material discussed on TV by Sally Jessy Raphael, Phil Donahue or Oprah Winfrey.

The New York station where Mr. Stern is based, WXRK-FM, currently is appealing a $2,000 fine levied against Mr. Stern's 1988 Christmas show on similar grounds. The Los Angeles station cited last week has 30 days to decide whether to appeal the fine.

Wire services also contributed to this article.

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