FCC Reaches $1.75M Settlement With Clear Channel

The Federal Communications Commission (search) has reached a nearly $2 million settlement with Clear Channel Communications (search) to resolve a number of indecency complaints that include shock jock Howard Stern (search), according to published reports.

The agreement, which could be announced as early as Wednesday, would settle fines proposed by the agency for sexually explicit remarks Stern made in an April 2003 broadcast.

The agreement also would cover any and all outstanding listener complaints lodged against Clear Channel, including dozens of cases that haven't even been reviewed yet, according to reports in Wednesday editions of The Washington Post and The New York Times.

Telephone calls to several FCC officials late Tuesday were not returned.

The settlement, estimated at about $1.75 million, would be the largest ever negotiated by the FCC and a broadcaster, the newspapers said.

It would be 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 DJ Todd Clem over the incident.

San Antonio-based Clear Channel, the nation's largest owner of radio stations, also canned Stern from six of its 1,200-plus stations after the FCC proposed fines of $495,000 for his April show. As part of its stepped-up enforcement of indecency regulations, 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.

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.

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.