Wednesday, March 17, 2004

WEBN facing FCC complaint

Clear Channel Communications could be fined up to $302,500

By John Eckberg
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Federal Communications Commission could levy up to $302,500 in fines against Clear Channel Communications Inc. stemming from 11 allegedly indecent daytime broadcasts by personalities at WEBN-FM (102.7).

Members of the Cincinnati-based social action group Citizens for Community Values taped the programs and on March 4 filed a complaint with the FCC. A commission spokesperson acknowledged the group had filed complaints but would not comment further.

Tuesday, the CCV and representatives of 20 other groups took their campaign to clean up America's radio and television airwaves to Washington, where they met with FCC members Kevin Martin and Michael Copps.

While the FCC has the power to revoke the Clear Channel license to operate WEBN, that is not among the current demands of the CCV, said Phil Burress, president of the group. He said the groups in the meeting represent 25 million Americans.

"The next thing we're going to do is ask for a meeting with Clear Channel in San Antonio, Texas," Burress said. "If they can convince us that things will really change - that they are going to clean it up - well, that's all we want.

"Between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. at night, we expect decent broadcasting. We're not trying to put anybody out of business. We want them to comply voluntarily."

Among the comments on recent weekday broadcasts on WEBN, the CCV alleged, were on-air exchanges that described sexual acts and made scatological references.

Clear Channel recently reined in its shock-jocks by pulling Howard Stern in some markets and firing Bubba the Love Sponge this month after paying a $775,000 fine linked to his broadcasts.

Also, Friday, the FCC proposed fining three Clear Channel radio stations $247,000 for nine apparent violations involving "graphic and explicit sexual material."

Officials at Clear Channel, based in San Antonio, did not return repeated telephone calls about the CCV allegations and about the investigation at WEBN. WEBN officials also did not return telephone calls.

FCC staff can recommend maximum fines of up to $27,500 an incident.

Contacting businesses that advertise on WEBN is another option for the CCV, vice president David Miller said.

Burress said it was a new day at the FCC. Commissioner Martin described a more engaged agency, one that has added people to the division charged with monitoring programming. The commissioner said the agency also would consider revoking broadcast licenses.

"We're not going back to the days of Leave it to Beaver and Ozzie and Harriet," Burress said after meeting with Martin and Copps. "But broadcasters have gone way beyond the curve."


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